Tuesday morning means Alabama fans are fully engrossed in “Tennessee Hate Week.” Wardrobes have been purged of orange, Jack Daniels is temporarily contraband and that video has been played roughly 20 million times.
This year’s edition of the Crimson Tide’s high holy week is tinged with a bit more tension than usual. Alabama has dominated “The Third Saturday in October” for nearly a decade, winning nine straight games, and only two of those victories by fewer than two touchdowns, but these Volunteers are almost certainly the best iteration Alabama’s seen in that stretch. On the road, against a mobile quarterback and semi-charmed team, carrying multiple injuries, with a thus-far-undefeated season on the line, a certain amount of trepidation is understandable.
It’s been tough to get a read on Tennessee this season. The Vols’ record, at 5-1, is at least one game better than should be expected, after they escaped Georgia with a snatch-and-grab win. Their turnover margin has been erratic, to say the least, and currently stands at minus-3 this season, after a staggering seven turnovers against Texas A&M on Saturday.
On offense, Tennessee is inconsistent but dangerous. Its rushing attack rarely breaks off big runs, but Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara make up one of the most efficient backfields in the SEC, to say nothing of quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ speed. Kamara, a former Alabama running back, had 312 all-purpose yards last week in place of the injured Hurd, who is expected to return this week. Alabama’s rushing defense, however, is allowing just 22 percent of runs to reach “successful yardage.” The Crimson Tide occasionally gives up a big run when a linebacker gets into the wrong gap, but other than that, running against Alabama just doesn’t work.
In the passing game, Dobbs is just as likely to win the game as lose it. He struggles with the deep ball, but can fit the ball in a window in shorter yardage. His 14-8 TD-INT ratio and 58.3 percent completion percentage are less than awe-inspiring. Most mouthwatering to Alabama fans should be his sack percentage: 7.8 percent of dropbacks ended in a sack.
Alabama’s defense has one of highest sack rates in the country and is much more comfortable shutting down efficient passing offenses than explosive ones. However, the Crimson Tide conceded 400 yards through the air on Saturday, even while Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was under pressure. Coverage has to improve for Alabama to make it 10 straight wins over the Vols.
Tennessee likes to spread the ball around in the passing attack, including using its two upperclassmen tight ends to great effect. With linebacker Reuben Foster dealing with an injury and Alabama struggling in man-to-man coverage this season, expect them to get plenty of chances.
On defense, Tennessee is … decent. Its defensive backs are good enough to cause problems, but their safeties tend to play close to the ball to prevent big runs, leaving the potential for big passes. The Vols are able to efficiently stop the run, although they won’t have faced an offensive line like Alabama’s. The Crimson Tide’s rushing attack is among the best in the country, and quarterback Jalen Hurts is more efficient, if less prolific, than his orange-clad counterpart.
Alabama should win this game, but this rivalry hasn’t always gone to script. In Las Vegas, the line has climbed by as many as five points in some places, currently standing at Alabama -13, which is a hefty margin against the No. 9 team in the country on the road.
- Speaking of the secondary, Terrin Waack at The Tuscaloosa News has a story on how far that unit has to go.
- Aaron Suttles has notes on notes from Nick Saban’s news conference, including some wild statistics on the Alabama offense.
- AL.com columnist Kevin Scarbinsky doesn’t believe in Tennessee just yet.
- Michael Casagrande, though, says the rivalry is ‘back where it belongs.’
- From Rainer Sabin, the defense’s snap count on Saturday could spell problems.
- When Nick Saban yells at the officials, it’s not just because he’s full of rage. Only mostly.
- SECCountry’s Marq Burnett has practice notes, including some notable absences.
- BamaOnline analyst Travis Reier breaks down Monday’s practice.
- Trevor Sikkema of SEC Country has a film breakdown of Alabama’s backfield hydra.
- And now, from hard-hitting journalist Damien Harris…
Saban in full
At 17 minutes, it’s a long one.
Players of the week
— SEC (@SEC) October 10, 2016
Alabama dominated the SEC player of the week honors. Minkah Fitzpatrick was the defensive player of the week, JK Scott was the special teams player of the week, and Jalen Hurts was co-freshman of the week. Those three led the list for Alabama’s players of the week as well.
Who had the unmitigated gall to do this? This is pure and unadulterated disrespect. ? pic.twitter.com/SidYgwYzx6
— Corbin X. White (@Whitecorbindea) October 10, 2016
This happens like twice a season at this point.
Verne and Gary forever
Oct. 22 TV Schedule Announced: pic.twitter.com/MLkLP3Sk7c
— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) October 10, 2016
Alabama will have back-to-back CBS kickoffs at 3:30 p.m. ET. Just wanted to make sure y’all didn’t miss out on the Verne Lundquist farewell tour. Because Verne is a great announcer and I will hear no dissent.
— Gallettes (@UAGallettes) October 10, 2016
I wasn’t kidding about that Jack Daniels thing. Located right next to campus and home of the Yellowhammer, Gallettes is probably the most popular and famous bar in Tuscaloosa.
Tennessee Hate Week, Day 2
This hype video features that DJ Hall catch in triple coverage that I had forgotten about. Man, the John Parker Wilson years were weird.