The Tennessee Volunteers have arrived at the second leg of the most difficult portion of their schedule—the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Facing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in back-to-back weeks is literally as hard as it gets. The fact that this is in Tuscaloosa just compounds that fact.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Vols, though. While facing the best defense that they've seen all year in LSU, the running game came to life with 111 rushing yards. The Tigers only allowed 69 yards per game at that point.
Is there reason to believe in the Vols this weekend? Can Derek Dooley best his former boss?
Much like the LSU game last week, the Tennessee Volunteers will need to play a perfect game.
Matt Simms was atrocious in the passing game last week going 6-of-20 for 128 yards and two interceptions. He has had tough luck in his two years with the Vols having to play the toughest the SEC has to offer while Tyler Bray was either waiting in the wings or hurt.
Still, completing only 30 percent of your passes is unacceptable. Da'Rick Rogers and Zach Rogers will have to help him double that percentage if Tennessee hopes to pull off the upset of the year. Where was Mychal Rivera? Simms needs to find him, too.
Tauren Poole and the offensive line might have finally found their stride last game. Simms' football intelligence at the line of scrimmage may have had a lot to do with that, and that's just fine from this Big Orange fan's perspective.
Poole has had trouble staying on the field with injuries this year, leaving the second-half load to freshman Marlin Lane. He'll have to grow up fast at Alabama this Saturday.
But what's new? Freshmen and sophomores having to grow up fast for the Vols...
In my opinion, the Alabama Crimson Tide is the best team in the nation. LSU may have the best defense, and Oklahoma or Oklahoma State may have the best offense, but Alabama has the best overall team and best coach.
Alabama wins if they avoid suspension before the game and injuries during the game. Also, Trent Richardson helps.
The Tennessee-Alabama spread opened at Tennessee -30 but has since completely reversed and is now Alabama -30.5...
Just kidding. Tennessee was never the favorite here, nor will it be for the next few years. The Volunteers are a work in progress, while the Crimson Tide are machines.
After being only 18.5-point underdogs last week to LSU, Tennessee has convinced bettors that they're more than capable of losing by more than four touchdowns. I don't mean that to sound harsh, but youth and inexperience coupled with injuries doesn't lead to a close game with 'Bama.
I'm sorry to say that I tossed money on LSU -16, knowing full well that the Vols wouldn't stay that close. Head with the money. Heart with the team.
Imagine this scenario: A smart, former player begins as a graduate assistant for a college football team. He moves schools and is promoted to a position coach.
He does so well that one Nick Saban brings him to LSU to coach positions and be the recruiting coordinator. The coach coordinates the recruiting of the players that win the 2003 BCS National Championship, and then heads to the NFL, a budding disciple of Saban.
When the Miami Dolphins don't succeed with Saban, he heads back to college to coach at Alabama. One coach follows him there and continues to be one of the best assistants for the next four years.
Isn't this guy one of the most valuable coaches in college football?
Except for the last statement, this describes Derek Dooley to the T (pun intended). Rather than follow Saban back to college, he took a chance on LA Tech and got his start in head coaching. Has his value really diminished because he isn't still an assistant at Alabama, where he had been invited to again come to by Saban?
His .500 record at LA Tech simply allowed Tennessee to get him at a discount. Go Dooley.
The Tide will roll. There's no use denying it.
What I want to see is continuous improvement from the Tennessee youngsters on the offensive line (which I have) and great effort from the defensive line (which I have).
Who is going to step up and be a man in the defensive secondary? Who wants to be like Eric Berry...or close to it?
Those are the encouraging signs to look for. Not the scoreboard.
Alabama 41, Tennessee 14