Week 9 Preview: Tennessee vs. (4) Alabama

No. 4 Alabama is coming off their most dominant win of the season and will try to take that momentum into their rivalry game against Tennessee on the road.

The Volunteers are coming off of a 34-3 loss to Ole Miss, but this week they have a little extra motivation. In 2010, then Tennessee Head Coach Lane Kiffin announced that he was leaving the program to take the head coaching position at Southern California. Ever since, there has been a distinct bitterness the Vols’ community has felt toward him for essentially “giving up on the program.”

Lane Kiffin is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and will travel back to Knoxville for the first time since leaving four years ago.  There was even the question as to whether or not Kiffin would make calls from the sidelines, or in the booth. Alabama head coach Nick Saban confirmed earlier this week that Kiffin would indeed be on the sidelines for Saturday’s game.

Since Kiffin’s departure, Tennessee has won only seven SEC games in the last four seasons. Alabama is looking to extend their seven-game winning streak against the Vols and will need to play the same type of football they did last week against Texas A&M to be victorious.

Keys for Alabama to Win:

Alabama has a huge amount of momentum coming into this week, solely thanks to their most complete performance of the season last weekend.

One area Alabama could start to improve on this weekend is performing better outside of Bryant-Denny stadium. This season, Alabama has scored just 31 points on the road against SEC opponents, and their only loss of the season was to Ole Miss in Oxford.

Improving on the road starts with quarterback Blake Sims, who is stepping into a very hostile environment in Knoxville. He and Kiffin have their work cut out for them, but if they can set the tone early, Alabama’s offense matches up well against the Vol’s struggling defense.

The Tide have every opportunity to run away with this game if the defense performs like last week. Alabama held Texas A&M to just 51 yards in the first half and less than 200 on the day.

A win here for Alabama will give them confidence heading into Baton Rouge after their bye week on November 8th. 

Keys for Tennessee to Win:

Tennessee is going to have to capitalize on big plays to overcome the Tide.

With their offense struggling to put points up, one of the main concerns for the Vols is protecting their quarterback. Justin Worley has been sacked 30 times this season and seven of those were made by Ole Miss last week. In order for Worley to target their talented wide receivers Marquez North and Pig Howard, he’ll need much better protection from the offensive line.

In order to slow down Alabama’s offense, Tennessee’s defense will have to stop the run. It has been proven time and time again, if you can slow down Alabama’s rushing attack, you have a chance of coming away with a win. Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson will play a critical role in this aspect. The senior has recorded 78 tackles on the year and will definitely challenge Alabama’s running backs.

Fun Fact: The last time Lane Kiffin coached in this matchup was as Tennessee’s head coach in 2009. The Tide came away with the victory when nose guard Terrence Cody blocked a 44-yard field goal with time expiring to beat the Vols 12-10, in a game now referred to as “Rocky Block”.

Everything You Need to Know:

When: Saturday, October 25

Time: 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2

Where: Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee

Spread: Alabama by 16.5 (Oddsshark.com)


*Section Photo and Featured Photo (above) credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images. 

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