The third Saturday of October is finally upon us, which can only mean one thing – it’s time to go hard or go home.
This weekend, #3 Alabama will take on #6 Tennessee in their 105th meeting. A rivalry that has been dominated for over a decade by the Crimson Tide, but this year seems different.
Tennessee is entering the matchup with Heisman hopeful Hendon Hooker behind center. Bryce Young is questionable to play after sitting out last week in a nail biter against Texas A&M. The Crimson Tide barely escaped that game thanks to some questionable decision making by Jimbo Fisher in the final moments of that game.
Going into Neyland Stadium will not make this any easier for Alabama, as the energy will reach levels fans have not seen in some time. Expect Knoxville to be covered in that beautiful Tennessee orange this weekend.
If Alabama is going to sneak out of Knoxville with a win, then look for them to limit the amount of mistakes they make this weekend. Last Saturday was far from pretty, as ball control was something that the Crimson Tide struggled with all game. They were lucky to squeeze past Texas A&M despite the mistakes, but the Volunteers will not be as forgiving. Without Heisman winner Bryce Young, Alabama will definitely struggle against this Tennessee team. But surely there is no way the Crimson Tide quarterback misses out on potentially one of the biggest games of the season?
In the other corner, Tennessee is looking to upset the Tide without wide receiver Cedric Tillman. The receiver is still recovering from ankle surgery, and hopes to be back for the Kentucky game instead. The Volunteers will look to overcome the lack of his presence and keep this offense at the top of College Football.
The high powered offense led by Hendon Hooker is definitely the Vols’ strongest point. The Tennessee quarterback will look to keep this high flying offense on course throughout. It currently ranks first in yards, averaging 547.8 yards of offense. The unit is also second in scoring offense with an average of 46.8 points per game. This will be Hooker’s largest challenge to date though.
Alabama’s defense ranks top ten in many categories this season, including yards per game and scoring per game. Highlighted by Will Anderson, a favorite by many in this year’s upcoming draft, the Crimson Tide will not make things easy for this Tennessee offense. That being said, getting to Hooker will not be easy either as the Vols have allowed the second lowest pressure rate in the country.
Tennessee will look to keep Alabama on their heels all game, flashing one of the quickest offenses in the nation. Alabama has not been the best in these up-tempo games, but will look to change that this weekend. No matter the outcome, the true winner will be football fans all over. This is lining up to be one of the best, if not the best matchup fans get all season.
#6 Tennessee will protect Neyland Stadium and upset the opposing Crimson Tide. Heisman Hooker will look to cement his name in this race and this is just the game to prove it. Hard to bet against Nick Saban and Alabama, but I just do not think they can keep up with this Volunteer offense. This will be a nail biter nonetheless, cause why wouldn’t it? Tennessee will squeeze by Alabama with some late game heroics from Hooker and win 34-31. Expect another strong showing from the connection between Hooker and wide receiver Bru McCoy.
By Will Lane – @TheWillieLane