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2014 Alabama Football Season Preview: The Tennessee Volunteers

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Smoke 'em, if ya got 'em.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Volutneers

Obligatory


We here at RBR hate Tennessee so much, we subconsciously skipped over their preview. #TennesseeHateLyfe

What happened last year

::Insert game review from 2012::

and/or

:Insert game review from 2011::

and/or

::Insert game review from 2010::

and/or

::Insert game review from 2009::

and/or

::Insert game review from 2008::

and/or

::Insert game review from 2007::

Look, I'm not lazy, at least not at this moment in time, but what's the point of reviewing a game we've now seen, sans '09, over and over again? Tennessee came in motivated to end the losing streak, played tough for a quarter, or something, and by the end of the first half it was 35-0. Oh yeah, and this happened:


What Will Tennessee Look Like in 2014?

Improved? Kind of?

I'm no expert, and I humbly admit to not being God's gift to bloggin, but it's not hard to foresee tough times ahead for a team that has replace their entire starting offensive AND defensive lines and has just eleven upperclassmen projected to start against Utah State.

A positive for the upcoming season would be that Tennessee has an experienced returning senior at QB in Justin Worley but to many Tennessee fans, saying this is a positive will be met with mixed emotions.  Beggars can't be choosers, my mamma always said.

The Vols actually have talent at the skill positions (WR and RB), it's just unrealized talent at this time. Five star wide freshman receiver Josh Malone hasn't been listed as a day one starter, yet, but he's expected to make an immediate impact at some point this year...Wait, doesn't immediate mean, like, now? Oh, well...

Another talented freshman in Jalen Hurd will be looked upon to replace Rajan Neal, who received nearly 60% of the carries in '13, though he, like Malone, is yet to be named a starter.

As mentioned above, UT will have to replace their entire starting line-up for both the offense and defensive lines. This would spell disaster for even elite schools like an Alabama, LSU or FSU, but when your defensive line wasn't particularly good to start with and you have to now replace all of them — Actually, I can't think of a word more fitting than disaster so please take your pick...

Tennessee has had issues recruiting elite players at the defensive line, tackle in particular, for several years now and if Butch has any plans on resurrecting the Vols from SEC East bottom dweller status, securing an inflow of elite talent in the trenches is a must.

Here's how SBN's Rocky Top Talk sees the starting five for the OL playing out:

  • LT Jacob Gilliam (Sr) OR Dontavius Blair (Jr)
  • LG Marcus Jackson (Jr), Austin Sanders (RFr)
  • C Mack Crowder (Jr), Dylan Wiesman (So)
  • RG Kyler Kerbyson (Jr), Jashon Robertson (Fr)
  • RT Coleman Thomas (Fr), Brett Kendrick (RFr)

This whole group is also a major "don't get hurt" unit; the Vols feel good about their interior line but would get very nervous and even more green if one of those guys went down with injury.

As for the defense, Tennessee plays a a good bit of Nickle, so a lot of pressure will be placed on the back-end of the defense to make up for any and all deficiencies on the defensive line. A.J. Johnson (ILB) returns for his senior year and should be a candidate for All-SEC honors by seasons end. The good news is that, if and when, UT moves to its base 4-3 set, they have options at OLB in another talented freshman Dillon Bates.

The corners and safeties are young but once again have some talent. (BTW Eric Berry's younger brother Elliot is a freshman corner this year). Names you should probably get to know: Cameron Sutton (So, Corner), Devaun Swafford (So, Safety), Brian Randolph (Jr, Safety), Emmanuel Moseley (Fr, Corner)

How Tennessee Might Win

Because it's a home game?

Look, Tennessee is improving, the upward momentum is slow and steady, but they are in fact improving (sort of). Butch is recruiting well and should have the Vols back in the SEC east title hunt by 2016, but expecting this turnaround in 2014 is misguided. Last year the Vols played well at home and everyone points to the USC game as the example but UT still lost at home to Vandy, Auburn and an injury decimated UGA team.

This year Utah St , Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Mizzou come to Knoxville but Tennessee will have to go on the road against Oklahoma, UGA, Ole Miss, USC and Vandy. So, if the Vols plan on getting north of 6 wins, they'll have to win all their easier home games AND get an upset against either UF or Bama..

But how?

Perhaps the transition of replacing an offensive and defensive line goes far better than anyone expected and maybe Worley settles down and is able to avoid the mistakes he made as a junior.

No team is unbeatable and when you are an underdog to Alabama, which quite frankly (and over the top gumpy) most teams have been since 2008, there's a formula that must be followed to a T if an upset is possible:

1. Otherworldly quarterback play. Name me a team that has beaten Alabama since 2008 (outside of LSU), that did so without a quarterback playing out of his mind? Maybe Auburn in 2013? Maybe

2. Win the turnover battle/force Bama into uncharacteristic mistakes- Alabama under Nick Saban typically avoids falling prey to mental errors (the Process) but when they do, these mistakes can spell disaster.

3. Match Alabama's intensity- We've all seen Alabama sleep walk through victories and at the end feel lucky to get a W (Colorado State in 2013 immediately comes to mind) and we've also seen Alabama dominate an over-matched opponent from the opening kick-off. Some teams have the talent to match our intensity (A&M '13, LSU, Auburn etc). Others try but still can't get over the hump.

So can Tennessee replicate this formula aka turn into 2010 USCe? Cause that's what they'll need to do to pull the upset.

How Alabama Might Win

::Insert game review from 2007-2012::

What I Think Will Happen

It's easy to dismiss Tennessee as yet another 6-6 team, or worse, especially given their recent history, but if the Vols talented youngsters grow up faster than expected they may be able to pull some upsets against UGA/Ole Miss/Vandy (lol)/UF and maybe get to eight wins.

Tennessee hasn't scored more than 17 points against Alabama since hanging 51 points on the Tide in 2003 and I don't see any hope of that changing in 2014. Tennessee still can't match Bama in the trenches and Alabama has the advantage at nearly every position battle on the field (WR vs DB's, RB vs LB's, DL vs OL).

Honestly, and this will make the LSU fans happy, 2014 may mark last year that Alabama will be the overwhelming favorite in a series that has been under attack by vultures clamoring for SEC scheduling fairness. This is largely due to the fact that Butch is assembling a talented team in Knoxville, but in the here and now, Alabama is still that far more talented team and for that we all rejoice.

Final Score:

Alabama 41 Tennessee 14

Roll Tide

8/30/2014 vs. West Virginia Atlanta, Georgia
9/6/2014 vs. Florida Atlantic Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
9/13/2014 vs. Southern Miss Tuscaloosa, Ala.
9/20/2014 vs. Florida Tuscaloosa, Ala.
10/4/2014 at Ole Miss Oxford, Mississippi
10/11/2014 at Arkansas Fayetteville, Arkansas
10/18/2014 vs. Texas A&M Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
10/25/2014 at Tennessee Knoxville, Tenn. W
11/8/2014 at LSU Baton Rouge, Louisiana W
11/15/2014 vs. Mississippi State Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
11/22/2014 vs. Western Carolina Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
11/29/2014 vs. Auburn * Tuscaloosa, Ala. W