10 reasons Alabama will beat UT for the 10th straight time
Alabama and Tennessee isn’t a rivalry. It’s a border war, and the mutual dislike and desire to win runs deep. Over the past nine years, ‘Bama has owned the series. Yesterday, we looked at nine reasons UT can end that run.
But today, the Tide turns.
Here are 10 reasons ‘Bama stretches that winning streak to 10 Saturday in Knoxville.
1. No competition: Tennessee simply hasn’t seen anything to compare with Alabama in 2016. Comeback wins over Florida and Georgia? How nice, both will end up 7-5 or 8-4 and in a lower tier bowl game. Virginia Tech, Ohio U, Appalachian State? The story there isn’t that UT came back, it’s that they ever trailed.
Texas A&M is the closest thing to Bama level talent that Tennessee has seen — and A&M isn’t that close, and UT still lost.
2. UT is a bad dog: Last time UT won in the SEC as a double figure underdog? I’m not even sure, but it was before this Alabama winning streak over UT started. In the Butch Jones era, UT is 1-10 as a double figure underdog, with the one win coming against Northwestern in last season’s Outback Bowl. Alabama is not Northwestern. Also worth noting that Butch Jones is 0-12 for his career vs. Top 10 opponents. Unlucky 13 is looming on the horizon for the Vols, who are about a 13-point underdog.
3. Alabama sack attack: The Tide are first in the SEC with 24 sacks. Tennessee is tied for next-to-last with nine sacks.
The advantage Bama holds on the offensive and defensive lines is apparent just from the stats. Head to head, don’t be surprised if the Tide pushes that edge for some big plays. Speaking of which …
4. Turnover city: Against the best opponent it played this year, Tennessee turned the ball over seven times. That doesn’t bode well against an Alabama defense that has scored seven touchdowns this season. The thing Tennessee can afford to do least is turn the ball over and give away points. Unfortunately for the Vols, as the numbers above show, that’s not only a possibility, it seems to be a likelihood. For the year, Bama is +5 on turnover margin and UT is -3.
5. Alabama outpasses Tennessee: If you looked for a Vols edge on paper, it’s probably the quarterback position. Joshua Dobbs is an All-SEC pick and a senior leader who has played in big games. Jalen Hurts is a true freshman who, frankly, hasn’t.
But the numbers don’t lie. In 2016, not only has Alabama passed for more yards than Tennessee, it hasa better completion percentage, averages more yards per attempt, and has a better touchdown/interception ratio. In light of the injury to Cam Sutton, there’s no reason to think Hurts won’t have significant success against the UT secondary.
6. Run defense: For the season, UT has averaged 4.3 yards per carry and has allowed 4.5 yards per carry. That’s right, they’re actually outgained by opponents on the average rushing play. Alabama? Glad you asked: 5.7 yards per carry offensively, 2.2 yards per carry defensively.
So if you picked one of these teams to completely dominate in the run game it would be? Not Tennessee, I’m thinking.
7. First quarter, game over: For the year, UT has been outscored 62-17 by opponents in the first quarter. Alabama has something of a reputation as a slow starter, but actually has won the first quarter this season 51-23.
Tennessee has lived by crawling back from behind, but against Alabama, that looks like a recipe for a long afternoon. Bama might end the game in the first 15 minutes.
8. Depth: Playing against teams of even or weaker talent, Tennessee has worn down its opponents in the second half. But now with injuries, dismissals, and players leaving the team, Tennessee finds itself short-handed against Alabama.
For its part, Alabama outscores opponents 73-13 in the third quarter. Tennessee might be holding on for dear life in the final 15 minutes.
9. Big plays: Alabama has a multitude of players who can score from anywhere. On the ground, there’s Damien Harris (who has a 73-yard run this year), Joshua Jacobs (a 56-yarder to his credit), and the dangerous Mr. Hurts (who picked up a 41-yarder).
UT has no run of longer than 40 yards this season.
In the passing game, things even out, with each team having four players who have made 40+ yard plays. But Bama also has two players with big play punt returns (75+ yards), two defenders with 50+ yard interception returns, and two more with 50+ yard fumble returns.
Tennessee has nothing like any of that. So the big play is on ‘Bama’s side.
10. Nick Freaking Saban: Butch Jones is a nice guy who has gotten Tennessee football back to the point where we can even have a reasonable conversation about this game.
Nick Saban is a machine. He is the best coach in college football, and has been suggested by yours truly as a 2016 Presidential candidate. What, you don’t think that if you could give Saban a problem and a game plan of possible solutions that he couldn’t choose the best option and lead people to execute the solution?
Politics aside, I’d hire him in a second. He’s too smart to want the job, because he knows he’s at the place where he is best appreciated for the detail-oriented, control-freak genius that he is: Alabama.
And when he wins Saturday night, they’ll keep on appreciating him.