Happy Friday, everyone. Alabama travels to Knoxville this weekend to face the hated Tennessee Volunteers. Your previews:
Take Tennessee and the points, but you might want to consider a “money line sprinkle” on this one. Even if Young plays, it’s unlikely that he will be 100%. If Alabama’s offense bogs down, or even if it has just a few empty possessions, the Vols will have a chance to win this one outright. That is exactly what I think will happen. Hooker will make a massive Heisman Trophy statement in what will be the biggest win for Tennessee in a generation. Prediction: Tennessee (+7.5)
The Vols will get up fast. Social media will have Alabama dead, QB Hendon Hooker will be handed the Heisman, and a trip to the College Football Playoff will be a lock, and then Bama will go Bama.
Two quick scoring drives from the Tide running game will set the tone in the second half, the defense will feed off the momentum with a few key stops, and it’ll all slip away for the Vols.
It’ll be fun in the final moments with Hooker getting one last chance to do something amazing, and then the cigars will be lit.
Alabama 38, Tennessee 30
But whoever plays quarterback, the Tide can run. While on paper, the Vols are one of the nation’s premier rush defenses, part of that can be ascribed to the fact that teams have had to pass more in order to catch up in these games, and Tennessee hasn’t lined up against the skill Alabama has in the backfield yet.
UT can build a one- or two-score lead early and have everybody saying this is finally the year, but Alabama is better equipped to handle that kind of deficit, with the power to move the chains on the ground and the receivers to get after the Vols’ back seven.
College Football HQ Prediction: Alabama 34, Tennessee 31
ESPN’s Bill Connelly released score predictions for this weekend’s games using his SP+ formula. If you’re wondering what SP+ is, it’s a predictive metric designed to be “a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency.”
It also projects that Alabama will edge out the Vols, 33-28.
Crawford (The pick: Tennessee +7.5): This is the biggest home game in more than a decade for Tennessee, at least that’s what Saturday at Neyland is being billed as against Alabama. I’m here to say the road trip to Georgia a few weeks from now will be even more important because both teams will be unbeaten after the Vols take down the Crimson Tide. Alabama has played with fire in several close games already and even if Young plays, I don’t think he’s going to be 100%. I’ll take 7.5 points to be safe, but am picking Tennessee to win outright too. The stars have aligned and they’re all in Knoxville. ... Tennessee 35, Alabama 31.
Alabama has been kicking the Vols ever since, and only two games in the 15-game streak have been close.
But all streaks come to an end. And Tennessee already has ended losing streaks to Pittsburgh, Florida and LSU this season.
Is Alabama next?
Tennessee 34, Alabama 27: Vols coach Josh Heupel’s up-tempo, spread offense is the right system to beat the Tide. He also might have the right defensive system if Heisman Trophy quarterback Bryce Young is unable to play – or isn’t at the top of his game because of an injury to his throwing shoulder.
That last one is from longtime Knoxville News-Sentinel writer John Adams who is among the best in the business.
As one of those noted, regardless of who plays quarterback for Alabama, the running game will be a key in this one. As noted, the Tennessee rushing defense stats are a bit illusory because of the way that college football rushing is calculated. For example, the Vols held Pitt to only 3.6 yards per carry because of sacks and tackles for loss on the quarterbacks. Starting tailback Israel Abanikanda ran wild for 154 yards on 25 carries. They did do a nice job on Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Trevor Etienne, holding them under 4 yards per carry but Anthony Richardson threw for 453 yards as a result. Richardson has averaged a whopping 107 passing yards per game and only 4.8 per attempt against his three other FBS opponents. They did play their best game in LSU last week, but that LSU offense hasn’t exactly lit the world ablaze this season.
So, what does all that mean? Tennessee’s defense can be had, and in a big way. Of course, their offense is among the best in the nation. This game will come down to how many times Alabama can keep them out of the end zone. My suspicion is that the Tide will need stops on 5-6 possessions to win, and 7-8 possessions to win comfortably. Can they do it? Erik will be along later with our predictions.
Saban answered yet another Bryce question on last night’s show, and also discussed “self-indulgent behavior” from last week’s game.
“Bryce has practiced some this week,” Saban said. “I think it comes down to how does he feel and we feel that he can throw the ball effectively enough. He’s not going to hurt himself by doing it, I just don’t know how much it will hurt him if he does it. He’s done it on a limited basis so that’s the question. Nobody going to know that until Saturday comes, he won’t know it, I won’t know it, nobody will know it and I know he wants to play and he thinks he can play and we’ll see”
—Saban said there was a lot of “self-indulgent” behavior against Texas A&M and cited the turnovers as “critical.” In games like this, Saban said your best is required. He cited a pyramid of success in the team facility on how to be your best teammate and create the best team.
The Tide are nine-point favorites against the Vols.
—Saban said he doesn’t look at the margin of victory, but rather if the team has risen to the standard it sets for itself in getting better each week.
I have no idea what behaviors he’d be citing there, but now am very curious. Saban did praise the team for this week’s practice and preparation, and also quipped that he would be just as happy coaching defensive backs but wouldn’t be able to afford Miss Terry on such meager earnings.
Pauls seem to believe the sky is falling, as Myerberg drops Bryce to 7th on his QB list and Finebaum says the program has slipped.
As big as Saturday is for Young, it may be even bigger for Hooker. Outplaying Young and sparking a win in the series – Tennessee hasn’t won since 2006 – may make the senior the Heisman leader, or at worst the co-leader midway through October. There’s also the obvious NFL angle: Hooker could continue to push his way toward the very top of next year’s draft with a win and good showing against the Tide.
While Young falls, Hooker is securely in second place on this week’s list of the top quarterbacks in the Bowl Subdivision. (Last week’s ranking is in parentheses.)
“It does seem like this program has slipped,” Finebaum said. “Slipped from where is the question. They’re not as dominating. They make a lot of mistakes. That is evident by the 49 penalties. They don’t create turnovers like the great Alabama teams of Nick Saban have done.
“The offensive production, which is still high, doesn’t seem as fluid. Look at the NFL rosters - from a receiver standpoint - there are endless numbers of lost players from (Jaylen) Waddle) to (Jerry) Jeudy to DeVonta Smith, (running back) Najee Harris.
“The quarterback is just as good as anyone who’s been there - maybe better - but he doesn’t have the compliments around him. Therefore, Alabama hasn’t been effective.”
Woe is us.
I feel Lori’s pain here, even if she is a nasty Vol.
“I was questioning my parenting,” Lori Tidwell said. “Doesn’t ever parent raise their children that you just don’t pick the third Saturday in October for any event?”
She also wanted to get married in mid-October when she and Tim became engaged. Her preferred date: Oct. 15, 1994, when Alabama would play Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. Tim balked at the suggestion.
They were married about seven weeks earlier on Aug. 27.
No one has pressured Bonnie and Sadler to change the date. After all, they got the right photographer and venue. Two out of three isn’t bad.
This is just an example of poor priorities. No, really, it is and not just for the football. I love my son and his wonderful bride more than anything, but as I told them at the time, far too much time, effort, and angst was invested in things like venues and photographers in effort to create those oh so perfect wedding photos. Luckily it wasn’t my money as their options would have been greatly reduced, but seriously young folks, none of that stuff matters. Thirty years from now when you go to show those pictures, the only people who will moderately care will be your kids and grandkids, and only then out of curiosity for what you looked like back then. The flowers, the views, the building.... not one person will give a damn.
Last, Amazon showed a Thursday Night Football game last night between Chicago and Washington that should have carried a NC-17 tag for obscenity, but a couple of former Alabama studs did their thing. First, Jon Allen got his first career interception.
Jonathan Allen gets the pick! Hands like a carpenter pic.twitter.com/3JismgfHNW— Bama NFL (@TheBamaNFL) October 14, 2022
Then, Brian Robinson miraculously scored his first NFL touchdown a little over six weeks after being shot multiple times in a robbery attempt. The touchdown itself was just a short plunge into the end zone, and B Rob was much more pleased about getting the W.
Robinson finished the night with 60 rushing yards and that score.
That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.