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After giving Crimson Tide fans quite a scare when he went down in the third quarter of last Saturday’s Missouri game, AJ McCarron will be slightly hobbled and will wear a brace on his bruised knee against the Vols. McCarron enters Saturday’s contest having completed a school-record 227 passes in a row without an interception. Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are coming off their best performances of the season, having combined for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 18 carries apiece last week. Cyrus Jones has been taking more snaps in the slot at practice this week because of injuries to the receiving corp. Tennessee’s defense is giving up an average of 31.5 points per game and 429.9 yards per game, putting them at next-to-last in the SEC in total defense.
How much, if it all, will AJ McCarron's bruised knee affect his performance? What it won't affect is his ability to hand the ball to Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon, who will go to work against a Tennessee defense that has allowed 6.2 yards per carry and nine rushing touchdowns in three SEC games. From there, UA will look to take shots off play action against a pass defense that has surrendered seven passing touchdowns while making just one interception in league play. McCarron will do all of this while going against a Tennessee pass rush that has recorded three sacks in three SEC games. With McCarron hobbled, it's possible that UA's boot package could be limited. Everything else, though, should be in play.
"We have not lined up for three games now against any 'regular' formation. Do you understand what I'm talking about? ... I'm talking about a tight end and two backs and two receivers in a pro or a slot or whatever. We haven't even seen a play like that. We haven't seen a power play, we haven't seen the lead plays and the direct runs that good old-fashioned football teams run, and I guess that I would put us in that good old-fashioned football team category, because we still run those plays." Bottom line: Tennessee is more like Alabama than the Crimson Tide's previous three opponents (Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss and Missouri).
For Tennessee, The Third Saturday in October has become about things that happened a decade ago. And even worse, the fact that Alabama has won five straight doesn't hurt the way it's supposed to, because it feels like everybody has won five straight against us. As someone who remembers Alabama's run in this series from 1986-1994, you're supposed to come into a game like this excited that this might be the year! But now we're more concerned with our inability to win a big game, let alone the big game.
"When I got hurt was almost exactly a year ago, it was tough," the sophomore said. "To rehab every day -- I didn't know it was going to be as hard, actually. When you get hurt, it's not a joke, because it's tough to get back. "I'm still kind of hurting a little bit. But I'm just ready to go out there and play, you know? I'm actually pretty excited. It's been a year, and this is the same team that I tore my ACL against. I'm ready to go out there and have fun."
Alabama is again leading the country in all four areas. So, is it possible for the Crimson Tide to perform even better? Do you really need to think about how Alabama coach Nick Saban would answer that one? "It’s been a hard-working group," Saban said. "They’ve had a really good attitude about what they want to try to do. I still think there’s a lot of areas that we need to improve on."
The Alabama Crimson Tide have a chance to do something this week that's never happened in their tradition-rich program. The Crimson Tide have scored at least 33 points in all six games this season, but they have never reached the 33-point mark in seven consecutive games. Last season was the only other time Alabama had a streak of six such games, which was broken with the 9-6 loss to LSU. More good news for Alabama? This season is the sixth time that Alabama has scored at least 33 points in at least five consecutive games in a single season (1920, 1945, 1973, 2009, 2011). Of those previous five seasons, the Tide's combined record is 57-3 with three national championships (1973, 2009, 2011). As for the other SEC team in the state of Alabama, the Auburn Tigers are 1-5 (0-4 in the SEC) just two seasons after claiming the national championship.
The first BCS rankings of the year were released Sunday, but you don’t have to check them. If you’re at all curious about the teams ranked 3-25 you might want to look it over, but those numbers have no meaning. If you follow college football at all, you already know who the top two teams are. Alabama and Florida are in the lead. Everyone else is eating their dust. Should one of the two SEC teams lose, they would probably lose to another SEC team, leading the new SEC team into the top two in the rankings. This is college football, ladies and gentlemen, the only sport with three Division I subdivisions. The FCS plays for a mini-championship, the FBS plays for cute little bowl titles, and the SEC plays for the national championship.
The 2013 schedule features five conference games in the second-to-last week of the season, including Texas A&M-LSU. That's typically an unattractive SEC weekend. This year only three SEC games that weekend: Arkansas-Mississippi State, LSU-Ole Miss and Vanderbilt-Tennessee. SEC family portrait.jpg Although the game is not listed yet, Womack said there will be a Friday game after Thanksgiving as usual in 2013, and Arkansas-LSU is a possibility. Also as usual, there is the potential for games to be moved to Thursday nights. The SEC has interest in playing on Thanksgiving night, but it probably won't happen in 2013, Womack said. Ole Miss-Mississippi State and Texas-Texas A&M used to play on Thanksgiving.
The Southeastern Conference is operating under a stand-alone football schedule this season and released another stand-alone schedule Thursday for 2013. There will be seven different divisional crossover matchups next season, including Auburn at Tennessee, LSU at Georgia and Alabama at Kentucky. SEC athletic directors will map out scheduling formats for the 2014 season and beyond during the league's spring meetings next May. "As we began working on the 2013 football schedule, it became apparent that the conference would need another year of the 'bridge' schedule to make everything work," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. "I appreciate the SEC transition team and our athletics directors, who came together to put this schedule in place. We look forward to starting with our new scheduling rotation in 2014."
The release of the Southeastern Conference's 2013 schedule Thursday instantly makes the Crimson Tide next year's lock-down favorite. Crimson Tide fans, book your vacation plans to sunny California. It would be fitting for an SEC win in the last BCS title game played before college football moves to a four-team playoff in 2014. History will also be made at the Rose Bowl, where Alabama won its first BCS title in January 2010. In fact, the toughest game on Alabama's 2013 SEC schedule might be against a former Big 12 conference also-ran. The Crimson Tide opens at Texas A&M, where quarterback Johnny Manziel, aka "Johnny Football," might pose some problems.
Freshman forward Devonta Pollard, the only newcomer on a team that is looking to build on last year's NCAA Tournament appearance, missed practice Thursday for what Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant called "a family matter." Still, there were numerous questions about what role the 6-foot-8 Pollard, a Top 25 national recruit from the state of Mississippi, would play on this year's team. "Devonta is a basketball player, as I like to call it," Grant said. "Our team this year, I guess we have got good size when you look at Nick (Jacobs), Carl (Engstorm) and Moussa (Gueye). But outside of those three guys, who are centers, we are something of an undersized team. So we will play a variety of different line-ups and (Pollard) and a lot of our other players will be asked to do a lot of different things. "He's doing well," Grant added. "Obviously as a freshman, there's a lot to learn in terms of what the expectations are, and the system. I think our veteran guys have done a good job of helping that learning curve for him. He's got a very high basketball IQ as well, so he has been able to pick things up."