Tennessee Football: 5 Things the Vols Must Do to Upset Alabama
It's that time of year football fans—the storied SEC rivalry between Tennessee and Alabama awaits as one of the highlights of the season.
While the matchup seem a bit uneven, last year proved that anything is possible.
As two-touchdown underdogs, the Vols may have upset the Tide if not for a 360-pound lineman named 'Mount Cody'.
Although the Vols have lost Eric Berry, Dan Williams, and Rico McCoy from last year's team, don't give up on them just yet. They defied the odds against LSU, letting a sure win slip through their fingers on a last-second penalty.
Here are five things the Volunteers must do get over the hump against Alabama.
The Running Game Must Be Established Early and Often
The game is won and lost in the trenches.
The Alabama Crimson Tide rode this philosophy to their 13th National Championship last season.
Tauren Poole, who has looked like a future stud in the SEC, needs to come out and run like his hair is on fire.
Poole averaged over 100 yards on the ground in the first two games but has failed to record another 100-yard rushing game since.
The offensive line, which will be missing its best young player, Jequari Schofiled, will need to play beyond their years.
The line will consist of sophomore Dallas Thomas; freshmen Ja'waun James, Zach Fulton, and James Stone; and Jarrod Shaw, who will be making his first career start at center on Saturday.
These young guys will have to grow up quickly.
The Defense Must Tackle... and Finish Those Tackles
Tackling has been a problem for the Vols this season, and that comes as no surprise to the team's fans.
Though the Vols do boast one of the top tacklers in the SEC in Nick Reveiz, the unit as a whole is young and has mismanaged a fair amount of tackles that have led to big plays.
Tennessee must wrap people up. Plain and simple.
Too many times players such as Janzen Jackson, Art Evans, and Prentiss Waggner have gone for the 'big hit' instead of the simple tackle.
If the young Vols learn that consistently saving yards is more important than wowing the crowd, they may have a shot at containing a potent Alabama offense.
The Special Teams Must Be Special
Tennessee and Alabama fans alike remember this game like it was yesterday.
On one side, triumph. On the other, heartbreak.
Big Terrence Cody broke through the line and blocked Daniel Lincoln's 44-yard game-winning FG to save Alabama's season.
To win in the SEC, speical teams must make plays.
If Dooley can corral Marquis Maze and get Eric Gordon going on punt returns, Tennessee should be in good shape.
Kicker Daniel Lincoln is injured for the third straight game, so true freshman Michael Palardy, the nation's No. 1 kicker, will get the nod again.
Palardy must be ready to step up, should the game come down to a FG.
The Vols Must Make Greg McElroy Beat Them
Greg McElroy hasn't been the same player that led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship last season.
He has seemed slower and a bit off on his reads, taking 20 sacks halfway through the season after only 18 all of last season.
Tennessee needs to apply pressure early and often.
If they can back Alabama up to a 3rd-and-long, Tennessee has a chance to force McElroy into bad passes.
The opportunity is there to bring pressure and put McElroy under distress.
Will the Vols do it? It is a must if they want to win.
Matt Simms Must Come Up with Big Throws on 3rd Down
Derek Dooley has said that true freshman Tyler Bray will get substantial playing time this week.
Should this scare Matt Simms?
Of course it should.
However, as much as the Tyler Bray hype train is gaining steam, it will be up to Matt Simms to convert the 3rd and longs that have plagued Tennessee all season.
Against Florida, for instance, the Volunteers stalled drives on 3rd-and-five and it came back to bite them in the end.
Against LSU, the Vols remained in the game because of crucial third down conversions from Simms throughout the game.
Simms has to step up and be the clutch leader that this team needs. If he does, then this young Volunteers team can catch fire and ride that momentum to a close finish.