coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
On 10/20/2013 12:02 PM in NCAA Football

Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide: Preview and Pick

Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide: Preview and Pick

The Alabama Crimson Tide is the No. 1 ranked team in college football and will be at the front of the BCS rankings. This week they host the Tennessee Volunteers who are fresh off a huge upset against the South Carolina Gamecocks. They will need to try and carry that momentum into this game if they have any hopes of taking down the Crimson Tide.

Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide Odds

The college football odds for this game opened up with the Crimson Tide listed as (-26) point favorites. It could have been much higher considering the way they recently trampled the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Vols will look to keep this within the number by playing as well as they did against the Gamecocks.

The upset by the Vols was one for the record books. Mike Davis rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown for South Carolina, which erased a 17-7 halftime deficit before falling. Shaw had a touchdown run and a touchdown pass, though he also was 7 of 21 and threw his first interception of the season, ending a string of 177 consecutive passes without getting picked off.

Tennessee hadn't beaten a ranked foe since a 31-13 victory over No. 21 South Carolina on Oct. 31, 2009. But on a day when hundreds of former Volunteers joined the team Saturday in running onto Neyland Stadium, Tennessee finally started playing like the Vols of old.

About 250 former Tennessee players, including All-Pro selections Al Wilson and Jamal Lewis, joined the team in going through the "T" and onto the playing field before the game. Now they will hope to pull off a miracle one more time.

The college football betting trends for this game reveal some interesting wagering angles. The Volunteers are 5-11-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record, 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a straight up win and 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 games following a win in which they covered the number. The Crimson Tide are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game, 18-8 ATS in their last 26 games following a SU win of more than 20 points, but 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game. Finally the Road team is 14-3-1 ATS in their last 18 meetings and the Volunteers are 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 meetings in Alabama.

Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide Pick

With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/21/2013 02:20 PM

Saturday was a huge step in the right direction for first-year head coach Butch Jones’ Tennessee football team. With their first win over a top 25 opponent since 2009 it was clear to see Saturday this “Team 117,” has made major strides towards improving the program earlier than most may have anticipated.

The Vols are now 4-3, giving them a winning record past the halfway point in the season for the first time since 2007, a year prior to what would become the debacle of the program, leaving it in the shape it is now.

While obviously pleased with his team’s victory on Saturday, Jones also saw areas for improvement.

“As we continue to move forward we must take tremendous strides this week in practice,” Jones said. “First and foremost, tackling. We had way too many missed tackles Saturday afternoon and we can’t have that happen.”

The Vols had the most trouble containing South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw on Saturday, who they allowed to scramble for 78 yards and a touchdown with him also tearing off a rush of 29 yards.

Passing wise however, Tennessee’s defense kept him in check only allowing him to throw for 161 yards on 7-of-21 passing with a touchdown. They also forced Shaw to throw his first interception of the season through seven games.

Jones was very adamant of pointing out his team’s mistakes in their victory on Saturday. He mainly accounted the Vols flaws on not executing the little things, and saying that’s what he expects them to improve upon during this week in practice.

“Just our overall fundamentals,” Jones said. “Same details, body position, hands inside, using our hands, running our feet, catching the football, little things. Those are the small details that has to get corrected to win game down the stretch as we continue to move on through the season.”

Jones also let it be known that his team has yet to perform to their full capability in his eyes.

“We haven’t even come close to playing our best football game,” Jones said. “Everyone has to take accountability in their performance, in their actions to get better this week.”

What lies ahead for the Vols will be a contest against their fifth ranked opponent this season. This time, it’s the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0). The Vols will face them on the road in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, October 26 at 3:30 p.m. EDT on CBS.

The Vols have dropped their last six meeting against the Tide, and haven’t defeated them on the road since a five overtime thriller in 2003.

After Alabama the Vols will have two more ranked opponents scheduled back-to-back as they will travel to and undefeated No. 5 Missouri team, and welcome a No. 11 Auburn team who just upset Texas A&M on the road this past weekend.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/22/2013 02:05 PM

Alabama starting strong safety Vinnie Sunseri will have surgery on his knee Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season, coach Nick Saban announced Monday.

Sunseri, a junior, was sixth on the team with 20 tackles coming into Saturday's game against Arkansas. He injured the knee covering a kickoff in the first half. He led the team with four pass breakups and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.

"Vinnie has done a great job for us," Saban said. "He's an outstanding player and a very good person, a good leader. You can't say enough about the job he's done throughout the year and in his career.

"I always hate it when guys get injuries. It's a tough part of the game."

Sunseri, who may to be able to resume activity in four months, is eligible to enter the 2014 NFL draft.

Alabama has had to deal with much turnover in the secondary this season. Veteran safety Nick Perry was lost for the year with a shoulder injury late last month and starting free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was suspended two games for violation of team rules. John Fulton started at cornerback at the beginning of the year before giving way to true freshman Eddie Jackson, who has since missed time with an injury. Bradley Sylve, a third-year sophomore, injured his ankle against Arkansas.

Landon Collins will serve as Sunseri's replacement, with Jarrick Williams moving into the backup role.

"Landon has been a very good player for us in whatever role we ask him to play," Saban said. "... Strong safety is his natural position. When we had all of our players, he was Vinnie's backup, so that's where he got the majority of his reps."

Collins, a five-star prospect coming out of high school, filled in for Sunseri for much of the game against Arkansas. He had filled in for Clinton-Dix at free safety the previous two weeks.

"Great leader," Collins said of Sunseri. "I looked up to him. He's helped me out at free safety with the calls and getting me to settle down. He's going to be missed."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/22/2013 02:06 PM

Alabama football coach Nick Saban was asked repeatedly last week how his Crimson Tide could get motivated to play Arkansas.

He wasn't asked that Monday.

The Tennessee Volunteers will invade Bryant-Denny Stadium this Saturday on the heels of their first signature victory under new coach Butch Jones. The Vols are 4-3 after stunning South Carolina 23-21 this past Saturday, and this will be the first time they've taken four wins into the Alabama game since 2007.

"Right now, Tennessee is emerging as a very good football team," Saban said at his weekly news gathering. "In their last two games, they've had an opportunity to beat Georgia and beat South Carolina last week. I think Butch Jones has done an outstanding job there. When a team improves like they've improved, it's always the sign of good coaching."

Tennessee was anything but good against Alabama under previous coach Derek Dooley, who lost all three meetings against Saban's Crimson Tide by 31 points. Saban's first two Alabama teams in 2007 and '08 thumped Phillip Fulmer's Vols 41-17 and 29-9, leaving the Tide's 12-10 escape in Lane Kiffin's one year with Tennessee as the only close call.

Terrence Cody blocked Daniel Lincoln's 44-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to preserve Alabama's 2009 win.

"That was a great moment for our school," Alabama fifth-year senior quarterback AJ McCarron told reporters Monday. "It led to our first national championship in a long time."

Alabama's six straight series wins under Saban followed a 12-year stretch in which Fulmer's Volunteers won 10 times at the expense of Gene Stallings, Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione and Mike Shula.

Legendary Crimson Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant beat Tennessee 11 consecutive times before losing to the Vols, 35-28, in 1982.

"The game with Tennessee is a very special rivalry for a lot of people and a lot of our folks in Alabama and especially for our team," Saban said. "It's been one of the best rivalries in college football for a long, long time."

Saban said the win over the then-No. 11 Gamecocks would give the Vols confidence and believes a victory like that provides coaches and players something to relate to when building a program. Saban got his first signature win at LSU in 2000 at the expense of No. 11 Tennessee, and he got his first one at Alabama against No. 16 Arkansas in 2007.

No stranger to rebuilding projects, Saban appreciates what Jones has accomplished to this point.

"One of the first things is establishing good intangibles in your organization, whether that's work ethic or discipline," Saban said, "and I see those things happening because of their improvement as well as the way they play. They don't have many penalties.

"I just think they've really established good intangibles with their team, and their team certainly reflects it in the way they play."

Alabama will face Tennessee without junior safety Vinnie Sunseri, who will undergo season-ending knee surgery today after getting hurt in the 52-0 thrashing of Arkansas. Landon Collins will replace Sunseri and start alongside HaHa Clinton-Dix, who regained his eligibility last Friday after being suspended for two games.

Jarrick Williams will be used in nickel packages and Geno Smith in dime packages.

"Landon has been a very good player for us in whatever role we've asked him to play," Saban said. "At least we have the opportunity to prepare the guys at the positions they're going to play this week."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/22/2013 02:07 PM

Alabama has not allowed a sack since the third quarter of the Sept. 28 game against Ole Miss.

The Crimson Tide have allowed just 100 first downs all season, 31 of them by Texas A&M.

Alabama is allowing 3.2 points a game since returning from Texas A&M.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/22/2013 02:08 PM

The celebrating ended pretty early for Ja'Wuan James.

Two minutes before 9 on Sunday morning, less than 18 hours after Tennessee upset then-No. 11 South Carolina for the program's first win against a ranked opponent in four years, the Volunteers senior right tackle posted the following message on his Twitter account.

"Snap & clear on to [the] next one. Alabama week."

For the first time, the Vols are taking on first-year coach Butch Jones' snap-and-clear mantra following major success.

It probably helps that the challenge is a visit to Alabama, the two-time defending national champion, the king of college football.

"I know this: Everything that occurred last week is not going to help us win this week," Jones said Monday. "What we've done, that's in the past. It's time to move on. You have to rely on your maturity and your leadership, but our players understand what's now at stake.

"If anything, it's how do you handle success? Does it drive you to want more? Do you want to continue to get better and better and better, or do you become complacent?"

For the first time since 2007, the Vols are 4-3, but the schedule that's already pitted them against teams ranked second, sixth, 11th and 19th at kickoff has them facing three top-11 teams the next three weeks.

"It is a new week. You snap and clear," James said. "We talk about snap-and-clear all the time, so now we've got to focus on the next opponent. We can't just live off this one game.

"Our team knows we're capable of winning big games, so now we've got to go out there and try to win another one."

The Vols spoke of proving the near-miss against Georgia wasn't a fluke and making sure it wasn't the season's high point, and they did with Saturday's fourth-quarter comeback.

That's behind them, though.

"You have to push the reset button every week," Jones said. "It's starting a new week over, a new game plan, the mental effort, the intensity, how you prepare, and our kids have done a great job of that. I think we've been ready to play, which is a tribute to them, every week.

"Everyone talks about the energy level that we have, and that's been pretty consistent throughout the entire course of the season."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/23/2013 02:44 PM

In three games last October, three quarterbacks set their career highs in passing yardage against Tennessee's defense.

And that was before the Volunteers allowed Troy to throw for 496 yards.

It's been a totally different story for Tennessee's secondary this month.

Neither Georgia's Aaron Murray nor South Carolina's Connor Shaw cracked the 200-yard mark against Tennessee, which now faces Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in visiting the top-ranked Crimson Tide.

"I think it's just confidence," safety Brian Randolph said following Tennessee's practice Tuesday. "We have a lot of confidence back there. We made some big plays earlier in the year, and that did a good thing for our mental game. We know we can go out there and do it.

"I'd say it's all of the above. Coaching has really helped us. They've put us in the right spots to make plays. The experience, we've all been through it aside from Cam [Sutton, freshman cornerback], but he learned pretty fast. We've got good knowledge back there."

The Vols didn't have much of anything in its secondary last season.

Mississippi State's Tyler Russell (308 yards), McCarron (306) and Shaw (356) all lit up Tennessee, which ranked 114th out of 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in pass defense a season ago. Georgia State was the only team Tennessee held under 200 yards passing last season, and eight teams passed for at least 245 yards on the Vols.

So far this season, only Oregon, whose Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota torched the Vols for 456 passing yards, Western Kentucky and South Alabama have cracked 200 yards passing.

"I feel like this year we're giving way more effort," cornerback Justin Coleman said. "We're playing with each other a lot more, and we're all committed to what we're trying to do."

Tennessee is 65th nationally in passing yards allowed (230.1) this season after giving up 282.5 yards through the air per game last season.

Sutton, who's impressed coaches and teammates with his talent, maturity and approach, is really the only addition. Randolph's return from a knee injury has shored up Tennessee's back end, but Coleman, safety LaDarrell McNeil and nickelback JaRon Toney combined to start 20 games last season.

A simpler scheme probably has been the biggest reason for the improvement.

"Just from going against them in the spring and in camp, and being close with some of the defensive guys, talking to them and seeing the difference in what they're learning and what's being taught to them, it's not surprising," tailback Rajion Neal said. "Those guys are pretty smart, and I think they're now just understanding the defense a little more.

"It's been simplified for them, and I think they're just going out and having fun and playing off instinct."

Tennessee limited South Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina to 10 plays of 20 or more yards after surrending nine such big plays to Oregon. Shaw's 76-yard hookup Saturday with speedy receiver Damiere Byrd, who outran Coleman, was the longest play against the Vols this season.

The Vols' 12 interceptions -- nine of them from defensive backs -- are the second most in the SEC. Missouri has 14.

"I think they're playing with a very high level of confidence, but again, we're going to be challenged [by Alabama]," first-year Vols coach Butch Jones said. "It's all team defense. We were able to generate pressure on the quarterback [last game], and it goes hand in hand. Great secondary play is usually linked amongset winning up front and winning your one-on-one matchups.

"We were able to do that, but there's still much improvement that needs to be made. We gave up a long touchdown pass, and a lot of it was technique and understand the down-and-distance. It's second-and-2. That's a waste down. You're going to get a deep pass. We have to take tremendous strides in moving forward."

McCarron will challenge Tennessee's improvement. The fifth-year senior, who's led Alabama to consecutive national titles, has had 300-yard passing games this season against Texas A&M and Kentucky.

Three Alabama receivers have had big games against Tennessee the past three meetings. Julio Jones torched the Vols for 12 catches and 221 yards in 2010, Marquis Maze had 106 yards on five catches in 2011 and Amari Cooper had his coming-out party -- a seven-catch, 162-yard performance -- as a true freshman in Neyland Stadium last season.

"We came a long way. We've gotten better," Coleman said. "We're finally starting to get it that we're a pretty good team, and we're not really looking back on the past. Playing the top team in the country is something we're basically looking forward to to show everybody that we're pretty good."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/24/2013 03:08 PM

Nick Saban's three national championship teams with Alabama have relied heavily on the running game.

This season is proving to be no different, and that's unlikely to change against Tennessee.

Saban will probably give the Volunteers a heavy dose of the ground attack as the top-ranked Crimson Tide look to continue their dominance of the "Third Saturday of October."

Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) is aiming for a third straight BCS title and fourth in five years, and Saban appears to be using a familiar formula.

Saban's last three title teams included dominating rushing attacks that ranked either first or second in the conference, and those squads averaged nearly 2,995 yards while totaling a staggering 102 touchdowns.

This season, the running game is gaining serious momentum, thanks in large part to T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.

They're a big reason the Crimson Tide are gaining 271.5 yards per game over the past four contests after averaging 132.0 in the first three.

In limited playing time, Yeldon and Drake only needed 18 combined carries to total 192 of Alabama's season-high 352 rushing yards in last Saturday's 52-0 win over Arkansas.

"I think those two guys have played well," Saban said. "Both tailbacks complement each other in terms of their style. One guy's a little bit faster (Drake). The other guy's more of an inside, make you miss, hard to tackle.

"I think the change of pace that the two guys complement each other with is really something that's good for our team. I think it's good for both of them as well."

The backfield tandem may be in for another big day since Alabama has averaged 174.5 rushing yards with 13 TDs during a six-game winning streak over the Volunteers (4-3, 1-2).

They rolled for 233 yards while averaging 5.2 per carry in a 44-13 victory at Tennessee on Oct. 20, 2012. That included 129 yards on 15 carries from Yeldon, who raced for two touchdowns.

Drake enters this meeting with 210 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries over the past two games.

The Volunteers' defense has shown few signs of being able to slow down the sophomores, ranking toward the bottom of the SEC by giving up an average of 181.7 rushing yards - 456 total over the past two games.

The unit will also have to contend with the efficiency of AJ McCarron, who has tossed 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions, including eight scores without throwing a pick over the past three games.

McCarron completed 17 of 22 passes for 306 yards and four TDs at Tennessee last year.

Despite the dim outlook for the Vols, first-year coach Butch Jones feels their future must include adopting Alabama's "next-guy-in" philosophy.

"I think the one thing you can say about their program - it's what we're building here at Tennessee - it's based on competition," Jones said. "It's a competitive environment every day you walk in there. That's what we're building here, kind of the next-guy-in mindset."

That will likely be on display in the secondary after Alabama lost strong safety Vinnie Sunseri for the rest of the season with a knee injury last weekend.

He's expected to be replaced by sophomore Landon Collins, who filled in at free safety during Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's two-game suspension earlier this season.

"For me, it's much easier because that's where I've been playing the whole season," Collins said. "I went back to strong this past game and just felt much more comfortable and I think played better."

Tennessee is looking to pull off another upset after Michael Palardy booted a 19-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 23-21 win over then-No. 11 South Carolina last Saturday. The victory was the Vols' first in 20 meetings against a ranked opponent, and this week they'll be trying to end a 10-game losing streak on the road that dates to a 24-10 win over Vanderbilt on Nov. 20, 2010.

"First of all you shouldn't need any motivation," Jones told the team's official website. "You're playing the best of the best in the country. The next evolution of this football team is learning how to win on the road.

"We have to go on the road and play in some great hostile environments. Everything is your preparation and being mentally tough."

Justin Worley has struggled in Tennessee's two road games this season, completing 23 of 48 passes for 275 yards with two touchdowns and as many interceptions. However, he came up big last weekend, hitting Marquez North on a 39-yard pass to put the Volunteers in range for the decisive field goal.

He finished with 179 yards and a score while connecting on 19 of 34 passes, and will now face a Crimson Tide defense that yields an average of 176.7 passing yards - 167 total over the past two games.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/25/2013 03:59 PM

Three things to look for:

1. Can Tennessee sustain it?:
The Vols are hot coming off the 23-21 win over then-No. 11 South Carolina. A week earlier came a near upset of Georgia (34-31 in overtime). But this same Tennessee team needed a late-game interception to preserve a 31-24 win over South Alabama. Oregon scored 59 points in three quarters on the Vol defense in Week 3, but there's renewed confidence in Knoxville. Will that make the trip to Tuscaloosa?

2. Penetrating the wall:
Tennessee's offensive line has been regarded its strength all season. Four seniors and a junior are protecting quarterback Justin Worley at an impressive rate. The rushing attack is averaging 202 yards a game. Alabama stops the run with great efficiency, but it'll be interesting to see how the pass rush impacts Worley. He hasn't been the most consistent passer in the league, but he's improving and Alabama's secondary is beat up. Getting in his face and beating the line will be a large factor Saturday.

3. Turnover creation:
Tennessee has been opportunistic on defense. The Vols' 12 interceptions rank among the national leaders and the 17 overall takeaways ranks 14th. Alabama, however, leads the league in fewest turnovers surrendered while taking away three possessions from Arkansas a week ago. Though Alabama is a 4-touchdown favorite, turnovers are the great equalizer. Avoiding those mistakes will keep Tennessee at bay.

Key matchup:

Tennessee receivers vs. Alabama secondary –
If there's a group that needs a bye week for Alabama, it's the defensive backfield. Continuity isn't common this year with a rash of injuries, realignments and HaHa Clinton-Dix's two-game suspension. The Vols haven't been winning games with their passing game, but they may see some weaknesses to exploit. Safety Vinnie Sunseri is out of the year and cornerback Bradley Sylve is unlikely to play with a high-ankle sprain. Look for the Vols to test this group early.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0
coleryan Posts:18816 Followers:23
10/25/2013 04:00 PM

Three things to know about Alabama

Alabama is unquestionably the top program in college football at the moment. Fresh off of two consecutive national titles and three in the past years, the Tide have lost a total of just five games since 2009. To put that in context, UT lost seven in 2012 alone. …

Built on the foundation of a suffocating defense and a strong run game, Alabama has also become a threat through the air over the past couple of season. That’s in large part thanks to the emergence of quarterback AJ McCarron and a talented group of receivers. McCarron has the ability to stretch the field vertically with his deep passes or to take yards in smaller chunks with his ability to check down to his backs and tight ends. He’s among the best ever in the SEC in his decision making as well, boasting an incredible 60-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. …

But while McCarron can air it out, the run game and defense remain crucial to its success. Alabama is first in the SEC in scoring defense (9.7 ppg) and second in total defense (275 ypg). Its also fifth in the SEC in rushing with an average of 211.7 yards per game. Running backs T..J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have turned into the formidable duo that coach Nick Saban has been famous for producing in recent years.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 4-8-0