Happy Friday, everyone. It’s pumpkin smashing season again as the Tide roll into Knoxville tomorrow as heavy favorites, this time to face native son Jeremy Pruitt and a Volunteers squad that is feeling good about themselves after winning at Auburn last week (We’re still laughing at you, Auburn.) Your previews:
The Crimson Tide kept rolling last week against Missouri, and broke a three-game losing streak against the spread in the process. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should be back after leaving last week’s game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Even if doesn’t come back at 100 percent or can’t go (for whatever reason), Jalen Hurts looks like he’s improved by leaps and bounds from last year. Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano lit up Auburn’s defense last week in a 30-24 win, and will have to set the world on fire for his team to stand a chance. Alabama will control this throughout. But as we saw vs. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) and Billy Napier (Louisiana-Lafayette), Nick Saban does all he can to avoid embarrassing his former assistants. The Tide will control it throughout, but Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols will find a way to cover. Pick: Tennessee (+29)
Tennessee’s rushing attack
The Vols rushed for at least 129 yards in each of their first four games.
They have 134 combined in the past two weeks, having rushed for 66 and 68 yards against Georgia and Alabama, respectively. The UT rushing effort against Auburn was the worst yet. The Vols averaged 1.89 yards per carry — 68 yards on 36 carries.
There have been questions about Tagovailoa’s health, as he aggravated an already sprained knee against Missouri last week. But he practiced fully on Monday, and said in an interview on Monday night that he was feeling better than he did last week. Even if backup Jalen Hurts were given the reins at quarterback, an Alabama blowout would likely still be in the cards. Given the backdoor covers that have thrice victimized Bama bettors this season, it’s tough to pick the Tide against the spread with great confidence. But when in doubt, err on the side of the team that is going to blow out the other.
Pick: Alabama -29
Conversely, Nick Saban is a perfect 14-0 against former assistant coaches, and no team in America can shatter an opposing team’s confidence quicker than Alabama. The Volunteers will do well to remain resilient for four quarters and play mistake-free football. But Tennessee still has too many flaws to keep pace with a far superior Alabama team. Better days probably lie ahead for Tennessee, but this “Third Saturday in October” will not be one of them. The Crimson Tide will be puffing on victory cigars for the 12th year in a row.
Prediction: Alabama 45, Tennessee 17
I’m not buying Tennessee’s resurgence just yet. Until last week, they had been pretty bad. Best way to describe that game was pathetic vs. apathetic, and pathetic won out. The Vols had remarkably lost all three of their previous games vs. Power Five opponents (West Virginia, Florida, and Georgia) by exactly 26 points apiece, and averaged less than 16 while allowing over 41 in those losses. They can’t run the ball a lick, but beat the Barn with a YOLO passing game that would have caused some concern if this was the 2014 secondary.
Fortunately, it isn’t. This Alabama team has been susceptible to spread concepts and misdirection confusing the inside pass defenders, but has done a fine job defending in man coverage down the field. Unless Tennessee comes out with a completely different strategy from what we have seen thus far, they are going to have a hard time getting anything going, and this Tide offense will obviously be the best they’ve seen by a wide margin. I actually think the line is a bit generous to the Vols here. Take the Tide in a 51-13 laugher.
Of course, that is just my opinion. Give us your score in the comments.
Three Richland Ace Hardware stores in middle Tennessee are each offering a $500 gift card - if the Vols pull out a win. Locations offering this deal are Richland Avenue Ace in Nashville, Ace of Goodlettsville and Ace of Chapel Hill. Each Facebook page has a post you must “like” and “share” to enter their contest.
And Krystals in the Knoxville area is offering free burgers if UT wins. Those 28 locations will offer free original Krystal burgers from the last whistle of the game through 2 a.m. and while supplies last.
Krystal of all places, eh?
That’s nuts. Wonder if Tetley or Luzianne is co-sponsoring this promo?
Did you catch this moment from Saban’s last press conference?
.@AlabamaFTBL #NickSaban w/ another classic:— Rick Karle (@RickKarle) October 18, 2018
Saban: "Smitty is the only receiver who is questionable, he hasn't been able to practice."
Reporter: "What have you seen in terms of what @Smityyy03 has been able to do?"
The answer:@tauliaa12 @DHx34 @iam__mw3o @darrenrovell pic.twitter.com/qRw3O3JGvb
People pick on Saban for his demeanor with the media but come on, bro. You don’t have to ask stupid questions. Nick played master of the obvious on his weekly radio show last night.
Saban on his first impression and hiring of Scott Cochran: "It was a slam dunk and one of the best hires we ever made."— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) October 19, 2018
“Yeah yeah yeah yeeeeeeeeah!”
Cole Cubelic noted Deonte Brown’s incredible strength, and Ryan Anderson was impressed. Apparently big Deonte is known as “Cornbread.”
Cole also noted Josh Jacobs doing some dirty work. Want to know how you earn extra playing time on a Nick Saban team?
Alex Byington wrote about the Saban Coach Rehabilitation And Process School (SCRAPS™) program:
It’s odd to see Jones in Alabama crimson rather than Tennessee orange. But his close-crop haircut is unmistakable whether he’s sitting in the back of a meeting room scribbling notes or in practice chatting up running back Damien Harris. One imagines him repeating his infamous “Champions of Life” or “Five-Star Hearts” mantras, but alas, Jones is not made available to speak to the media.
”[Saban] takes people who can help in certain areas,” said Kiffin, himself a former Tennessee head coach. “And I think Butch is more, ‘Here’s a guy who is one of our archrival’s head coaches and knows the conference.’ I know that goes into it, too. He’s not just hiring anybody.”
SHUT UP ALEX THE SCRAPS AIN’T TALKING TO PLAYERS AT PRACTICE THAT’S AGAINST THE RULES.
Last, Bradley Bozeman may be getting his shot as a rookie.
“I’m not happy about the circumstances, with Alex getting injured,” Bozeman said. “But everyone looks forward to playing. You prepare every day to be ready when your number is called. Whoever is named the starter is going to do a good job. They’re going to bust their butt to get the job done.”
After Lewis got hurt in the fourth quarter against the Titans, Bozeman, a center for the Crimson Tide, played the final 18 offensive snaps at left guard for the Ravens.
Kid started as a grayshirt and left town as the leader of a national championship offensive line. No shock he gets on the field and plays well as a seventh round rook.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.