For an explanation of what the heck this all means, check out week one.
It's the Third Saturday in October (or, well, Fourth anyway), so that means it's time to take on the Tennessee Volunteers. The Tide is sitting at #2 in the country with a 7- record, while the Vols are unranked and 3-4 on the season. There's plenty of reason to be cocky about this game for Alabama fans, but for me the Album Cover Worry Index remains at Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, meaning I'm confident we will win, but there's enough concern to otherwise shadow my handsome features.
Causes for Concern: First and foremost, it's Tennessee, and you can be damn sure Fulmer and his staff have been beating how significant this game is into the players' heads. I don't usually buy into the "throw out the record books" mantra about rivalry games, but this one is a little bit of a special case. UT's season has spiraled further and further into oblivion so far, and with a win over the #2 ranked Crimson Tide, Fulmer buys himself some serious political capital with all those who are so ready to run him out of Knoxville. With Gerald Jones out, the onus is on the offensive staff to find some way to compensate. There's already talk of the "Wild Berry" being unleashed on us, and when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, why shouldn't they go ahead and throw the kitchen sink at us?
Second, Eric Berry and Demetrice Morley are playmakers in the secondary. Wilson isn't the pick prone QB we've seen the past few years, but he's still made some poor decisions and looks like he's beginning to lean on Julio a little too much, a la DJ hall last season. We talked about the suspect nature of their much ballyhooed defense on the Radio Hour(ish) this week namely that, even though their numbers look good (#2 in the league in total defense, 3rd against the run, 5th against the pass, and the leader in picks), any team that has an offense that's able to move the ball effectively has done so against the Vols. Georgia lit them up for 310 yds though the air and even UCLA, who have been comparably futile since the opener had 259 yards passing in their win. Even with all that, though, if we don't play smart and efficient, they can make us pay. Two long pick sixes opened the Mississippi State game wide open for the Vols (it was only 13-3 in the fourth before those two defensive scores), and we're going to have to be smart with how we move the ball to keep them from making those kinds of plays, especially in the second half.
Causes for Hope: Did I mention the suspect nature of their defense? 'Cause we have that going for us, which is nice. Further, they have been simply horrendous on offense so far. The Vols are in the bottom half of the league in every statistical category on offense, and considering their poor rushing numbers, all our concern over the missing Legend of Terrence Cody are probably unfounded. The Vols are averaging 124.6 yards per game, 9th best in the SEC, but consider this: Against Georgia, who has a very solid run D (first in the SEC, five yards per game ahead of our own beloved Tide), the Vols had ONE yard rushing in the game. If they can stop them, we can stop them.
Further, in the games in which we've stuggled, it's been against opponents that have the kind of offensive firepower that can get them back into games. Only Ole Miss and Georgia truly made things uncomfortable (I'm discounting Kentucky since our missed field goals and the turnover to cap three solid offensive drives kept them in the game, not their offense), and both of them have solid offensive firepower. Tennessee, to put it mildly, does not. Even if we do struggle on offense, reasonably speaking there shouldn't be much worry that they will be able to take advantage of it. Hope for the best, kids, and have your cigars and gobble gobbles ready for what we hope will be a repeat of last year's glorious win. Roll Tide.