Coming into Saturday evening's game with the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Derek Dooley's Tennessee Volunteers have to feel as though they are running a gauntlet of fire.
Last Saturday, the Vols, 3-3 overall but 0-3 in the SEC, faced off against the nation's No. 1 team, the LSU Tigers, at home in Neyland Stadium. Though they fought valiantly for the better part of the first half, they were eventually mauled by the Bayou Bengals, 38-7.
In a seven-day turnaround, Tennessee will find itself having to square off against the No. 2 team in the BCS, Alabama. Trying to regroup after two consecutive home losses—last week to LSU and to Georgia two Saturdays ago—Tennessee is up against the eight ball in trying to end its slide against the Tide.
In Alabama, the Tennessee's injury-riddled offense faces a stiff test against a pachyderm defense that leads the nation in rush defense, pass defense and total defense. The chink in Alabama's defensive armor is pass efficiency defense—Alabama is only No. 2 nationally in this category, though it leads the SEC.
On defense, the Volunteers face an improving Alabama offense featuring juggernaut running back Trent Richardson, the nation's fourth-leading rusher with 912 yards through seven games, averaging a gaudy 6.91 yards per carry.
Though primarily a ground-oriented attack, the Vols secondary will face an efficient and improving Alabama passing attack. Sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron is becoming more comfortable with each game of experience and is developing improved rhythm and rapport with a Tide corps of receivers, featuring Marquise Maze, who is third in the SEC in receptions and eighth in receiving yards.
Though on the surface the deck may seemed to be stacked in the favor of the home team, this game is still Alabama vs. Tennessee and, as a result, could be much more competitive than many looking the numbers may think.
Let's break down the Tennessee Volunteers, both the pros and the cons, and take a more in-depth at the Tide's victims—I mean, opponents—this week.
Here we go!