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Jumbo Package: Saban expects Alabama to play with “an edge” vs Tennessee

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NCAA Football: Arkansas at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. As you know, Tennessee rolls into town tomorrow. Your previews:

Crawford (Alabama -8.5) — The Crimson Tide played with their food against Arkansas. Alabama had a commanding lead in the game, then took its foot off the gas and the Razorbacks, who had lost four straight and came in with a limp, had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Tennessee coming to Bryant Denny makes Alabama play a little harder and a bit more focused. Last season’s game went to the wire in a shootout, but points may come at a premium in this one. ... Alabama 24, Tennessee 13.

“This is such a weird game because before the season we expected that with Joe Milton Tennessee would hit a bunch of shot plays and we expected Alabama with this big offensive line to just run the football. Well as it turns out, Alabama’s been sporadic at running it and Tennessee can’t hit a deep pass.

“Both these teams sack the quarterback, Tennessee does a better job protecting the quarterback than Alabama does. I think Alabama is going to win the game, but Alabama hasn’t shown me that they’re going to cover nine and a half against a good team.”

Alabama 24, Tennessee 17: A re-focused Crimson Tide offense will get back on track, even against a strong Tennessee pass rush. The game will be hard fought, but Alabama will come out with a victory in the end thanks to its stout defense.

Tennessee is just very good, too. At least it’s not the Tennessee of last year.

Oh yes, I’m aware of the 29-16 clunker at Florida, but this team can run, Alabama’s run defense is getting a bit too much respect - again, don’t care, don’t give up 171 rushing yards to USF - and …

I’m stalling.

You’re giving me 9.5 - shop around - when this should be about 6.5. Bama will win, but the Vols will show up.

Tennessee and Alabama are among the worst teams in the SEC at turning red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. The Crimson Tide rank second-to-last in the conference, scoring a touchdown on 57.1% of their red-zone trips. The Vols are marginally better, ranking third-to-last by turning 58.6% of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns.

Alabama has done a better job overall in the red zone thanks to eight field goals. It is 20-for-21 on red-zone visits, while UT is 25-of-29.

Tennessee score prediction vs. Alabama

Alabama 34, Tennessee 28: Tennessee’s defense keeps the Vols in it a year after the offense got it done. But Alabama can limit UT enough as the Vols’ passing attack isn’t enough of a threat.

By this stage of the season it’s fair to say that we don’t really know what to expect out of this Alabama team. The good news is that Tennessee fans feel the same way. Alabama seems like the better squad, and the home field advantage should be palpable in this one. Let’s say that Joe Milton makes some mistakes in a hostile environment, and Alabama wins a 29-16 field goal fest.

Of course, that is merely my prediction. Vote and give us yours in the comments.


What will be the result of Tennessee at Alabama?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Pumpkins smashed, Tide by 10+
    (356 votes)
  • 52%
    Alabama wins in frustrating fashion by 1-9
    (425 votes)
  • 3%
    Tennessee makes it two in a row (BANNED)
    (31 votes)
812 votes total Vote Now

Saban made his usual media rounds on Thursday. He seems confident that anxiety won’t be a problem in this game as it was last year, and is again asking for the crowd to show out.

Saban went into how the crowd in Tuscaloosa could impact Tennessee specifically.

“This team’s trying to go fast,” he said of the Volunteers. “They run 2.7 plays every minute in the game. So you can affect that and disrupt that by making noise. And it’s gonna create energy and environment that our players will play better in, they’ll be able to sustain their intensity better in, which is what we lost last week. Because it’s gonna take that kind of game for 60 minutes.”

Saban also suggested that Alabama’s players will play “upset” and with an “edge” — which is when Saban feels his team is at its best — on Saturday when Tennessee visits Tuscaloosa for a much anticipated rematch.

“We have played well when we’re a little bit upset and have an edge to us,” said Saban. “And that’s something we have to go into this game with. I thought we played the game last year with a lot of anxiety. There was a lot on the line. All the guys put a lot of pressure on themselves. We don’t really want to go there. We want to keep an edge in how we compete, how we focus, how we play.”

Let’s hope the crowd shows out after that disgusting display last year.

The paralyzed, wheelchaired former Alabama football running back can think and reason as well as anyone, and he thinks the Tennessee fan who flung a drink on him at Neyland Stadium last year was unrepresentative of the UT fan base at large.

But he’s also decided he’ll never return.

That’s how Goode now looks back, a year later, on his gross mistreatment in the moments after Tennessee snapped a 15-year losing streak to Alabama. He was there to support his son, Roman, who is a recruiting analyst on coach Josh Heupel’s support staff. He even wore a UT shirt in the first half in support of his son, but felt compelled to change into an Alabama shirt in the second half. After getting soaked by a UT fan who was never identified, Goode signaled to his family that it was time to leave.

Last, the Miami Dolphins play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football this week... which means Tua vs. Jalen. Tim McManus and Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN collaborated on an outstanding read about the dynamic between the two, and Saban spoke about Jalen as well.

Hurts and Tagovailoa split first-team practice reps throughout the season, with Hurts taking roughly 80%, Hutchinson said. But Hurts came down with the flu in the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl against Clemson, and Tagovailoa took the starter’s reps.

“Anybody that remembers those two or three practices, man, we looked like a different team,” Locksley said. “I could just remember the two or three days of practices where the ball didn’t ever touch the ground.”

Tagovailoa’s performance was strong enough to warrant playing time against Clemson — or so he thought.

Hurts played every snap of a grueling 24-6 win, during which Alabama compiled 261 yards of offense and 120 passing yards.

“Tua was so mad after that game, there was a chance that he was literally going to transfer,” Locksley said, “because he expected to play in that game.

“I had a meeting with him and said ‘If you want to play in the NFL someday, you have a great opportunity every day in practice to improve as a passer. To improve your reading — reading the coverages, reading the defense, better anticipation.’

“All those things,” Saban said. “‘If you do that, it’s going to help your development tremendously. So, don’t be frustrated that you may not be starting the games but when you get the opportunities, you’re going to be a much better player because you made an improvement in all those areas.’

“He took all that and did a great job with it and I think he made a significant amount of progress. I’ve said before that he probably improved more the year he didn’t play than the years he did, as a passer.”

I don’t remember that nugget about Jalen having the flu and Tua taking all of the starter reps before the Clemson game. That would match with the rumors that Brian Daboll wanted to play Tua sooner, if it had been clear in practice that the offense was more explosive.

In any case, to say that both represented themselves and Alabama well would be an understatement. That should be a fun one.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.