An huge, SEC matchup versus the 2nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers will kick off at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm EST. The Crimson Tide are brimming with confidence after taking out then 3rd ranked Georgia Bulldogs last weekend in Tuscaloosa while covering as six point favorites. On the other hand, the Volunteers were beat down for the 2nd straight weekend as they were knocked from the top 25 rankings after falling by 27 points at home to the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday as 6.5 point favorites. Currently, the line favors the Crimson Tide by 21 points, up from 19.5 points at opening, while the total stands at 66 points, up from 62 at opening.
Alabama has not only won ten straight against the Volunteers, but has covered the number in seven of those matchups. Important to note that while the Crimson Tide was able to pick up a 35-13 win in last year's showdown, Alabama missed out on the cover which stood at 34.5 points. Finally, the Crimson Tide has tons of success at Neyland Stadium in winning five straight while winning against the number in four of those contests.
Crimson Tide rolls over BulldogsAlabama has covered the number in two of their last three matchups with their last being in a big SEC contest versus the Georgia Bulldogs on the road as six point favorites. Their offense enters Neyland Stadium as one of the best in the nation in averaging 169 yards on the ground along with a whopping 393 passing yards on the season, led by senior Mac Jones, who has passed for over 1500 yards while having completed 78% of his passes for 12 touchdowns alongside just two picks.
His connection with junior Jaylen Waddle (25 rec, 557 yds, 4 TD's) has been superb thus far with Waddle posting 100+ yard receiving days in all four Crimson Tide contests. Also, the buck does not stop with Waddle as Jones has also worked in consistent connections with senior Devonta Smith (38 rec, 483 yds, 5 TD's) along with sophomore John Metchie III (14 rec, 348 yds, 3 TD's) on the outside as well to keep opposing secondaries off-balanced. Tight end Miller Forristall (102 yds, 8 catches, TD) is questionable for this contest with an ankle injury.
“In this moment in history, we can’t be silent.” pic.twitter.com/YF4ndJSpa0— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) June 25, 2020
Senior running back Najee Harris (499 yds, 8 TD's) leads the rushing attack for the Crimson Tide as he is posting six yards per carry in 2020 in addition to catching eight passes for 11 yards per catch. Alabama's offense, which scores 49 points per game, will match up versus a Volunteers defense that has not defended the rush well all season in allowing just under 150 yards per game. And while the pass defense for Tennessee has been a bit more consistent, the fact is that the unit will be matching up with some of the best receivers in the nation in Smith, Waddle, and Metchie III this weekend.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide have been very much uncharacteristic in giving up 29 points per game, including 150 yards on the ground along with just under 300 yards per game in the air. Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide are certainly optimistic as a defense with five turnovers in their first four matchups this season, including three picks in their last outing versus Georgia. Daniel Wright has two INT's on the year while recording 18 tackles (4 vs UGA) while junior Patrick Surtain II (6 tackles) also adds talent and leadership to the back-end of the defense. Defensive lineman Christian Barmore leads the defensive front with two sacks while senior linebacker Dylan Moses (19 tackles, sack) has been the QB of the defense thus far while leading the team with 5 tackles, 5 assisted, versus the Bulldogs while collecting his 1st sack of the year.
Important to note that defensive lineman Labryan Ray (8 tackles, sack) is questionable for this contest due to an undisclosed injury.
Tennessee snake-bitten by WildcatsTennessee will certainly not have a decent chance at winning this contest versus Alabama if they are not able to effectively move the ball without turnovers. They committed a total of four versus Kentucky in their loss last weekend with QB Jared Guarantano being responsible for two more picks, his second and third of the season. The signal caller has not been very efficient in the pocket in 2020 in completing just 63% of his passes for only 752 yards and four TD's. As a result, the Volunteers, aside from senior Brandon Johnson (13 rec, 155 yds), are essentially void of any outside threat at the moment as well as of a reliable QB that can possibly deliver the ball on a consistent and efficient basis. Nonetheless, coach Jeremy Pruitt will continue to remain with Guarantano for now, that is.
Sophomore running back Eric Gray has not only been the bell cow at running back for Tennessee, but has also been one of the leading receivers as well in catching 13 passes for a ten yard per catch average. In fact, the rushing attack seems to be the most consistent this year in putting up 135 yards per game with Gray accumulating 298 yards for 13 scores while averaging five yards per carry. If they are to keep this game close, the Volunteers must be able to effectively run the ball on an Alabama defense that has certainly be susceptible to giving up yards on the ground.
However, veteran offensive lineman Jahmir Johnson is questionable with a hamstring injury while sophomore Wanya Morris may also miss the contest due to an undisclosed injury for an offensive line that has not been able to stay healthy.
Defensively, the Volunteers' pass defense, which gives up 213 yards per game, may be without junior cornerback Alontae Taylor (9 tackles) after he limped off the field versus the Bulldogs with an apparent hamstring injury (questionable). This means that the Volunteers will trot out a freshman in Key Lawrence versus the Crimson Tide to work alongside juniors Kenneth George, Jr. (10 tackles, ff) and Bryce Thompson (12 tackles, ff) to somehow limit the damage from Jones and company.
Expect the defensive line and linebacking corps for Tennessee to get a huge workout this weekend. This means that defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus (sack) along with linebacker Henry To'o (15 tackles, INT, sack) will need to step up to prevent the Crimson Tide from getting any confidence in their rushing attack. Linebacker Jeremy Banks (10 tackles) is questionable for this contest with a leg injury.
Stats & Trends
- Crimson Tide are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 meetings in Tennessee.
- Crimson Tide are 11-4-1 ATS in their last 16 meetings.
- Crimson Tide are 5-2 ATS in last 7 games
- Volunteers are 1-8 ATS in last 9 home games versus Crimson Tide
- Volunteers are 1-4-1 ATS in last 6 games
While the Crimson Tide have not been as strong on the defensive side of the ball in 2020, expect the road team to get after an injured and inconsistent offense for the Volunteers Saturday. Again, the Vols were able to win against the number last year, yet still lost by 23 points to an Alabama team that gave up just 233 total yards. Also, with the Crimson Tide covering in eight of their last nine games at Neyland Stadium, the road team certainly has the psychological advantage entering the contest.
Again, with the offensive line for Tennessee possibly being without two of their stalwarts, expect for their rushing and passing attacks to be constantly disrupted by an Alabama defense that has all the confidence in the world after beating up on the 3rd ranked team in the country in the second half of their win last weekend. Guarantano is 21-42 for 162 yards, two touchdowns, along with an INT in three meetings versus the Crimson Tide.