Week 8 - Alabama at Tennessee

Posted Oct 19, 2012

Week 8 Fearless Prediction & Game Analysis – Alabama at Tennessee

Alabama (6-0) at Tennessee (3-3) Oct. 20, 7:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal: Now we all get an answer to a big question – how will Alabama do against a team that can actually throw? For all the great things the Tide has been able to do over the last few years, it hasn’t exactly had to deal with a Big 12 slate full of high-powered attacks. Last year, Arkansas was the only great passing game on the schedule, and it was held in check in a dominant Bama win, but that was last year. This season, Arkansas once again is the only team so far on the slate with any real ability to throw, but Tyler Wilson didn’t play in the 58-0 loss and the team was in a freefall of a mess. This week against Tennessee, the and in a few weeks against Texas A&M, the D will finally be tested.

This kicks off a month of games that will prove whether or not Alabama really is worthy of being the unquestioned No. 1 team. Beating Michigan was nice, but that was the perfect matchup for a Tide D that only had to focus on one guy. Ole Miss? Missouri? Western Kentucky? Decent teams all, but there hasn’t been the truly big win so far like Florida’s victory over LSU or South Carolina’s blasting of Georgia. With Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M coming up next, now the fun begins.

Tennessee might be 3-3 and might be far more fun and far more competitive, but head coach Derek Dooley is on a hot seat and could desperately use a shockingly big victory to show that the program has to the potential to be special again under his watch. There’s no real beef with losing to Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State teams that have just one loss among them, and going to South Carolina next week is going to be a problem, but at some point, coming close isn’t going to be good enough – the Vols actually have to win some of these games.

November should be nice and easy and a bowl appearance should be a lock even with a loss this week, but this is it. This is the statement time. This is when Tennessee has to be Tennessee again in one of the SEC’s greatest rivalries.

It’s not Alabama-Auburn, and Florida-Tennessee was special when both programs were humming, but having met 93 times with the first battle a 24-0 Alabama victory in 1903, these two have an incredible history that’s occasionally been as bitter and fierce as any matchup in college football. However, Alabama has won five in a row and has been dominant over the last few seasons.

Why Alabama Might Win: Yeah, the defense is that good. Can Alabama handle an offense that can wing the ball all over the yard like Tennessee does? That might remain to be seen, but it’s not like the defense has faced a slew of Army and Navy-like attacks – you don’t rank No. 1 in the nation against the pass without doing something right. This week, Tennessee can forget about the running game that’s been able to take the attention away from the linebackers who first and foremost have to worry about Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson taking short passes a long way. The Vols have been running the ball much, much better they did last year, but they’ve only faced one truly nasty run defense – Florida’s – and came up with just 83 yards on 28 carries. There won’t be any production up the middle against Jesse Williams and the Tide defensive front that’s allowing just 55 yards per game.

Why Tennessee Might Win: Yeah, the Alabama defense is that good, but Tennessee has held its own against a few strong defenses and really will bring something different. The receiving corps is by far the strongest that anything the Tide secondary has had to deal with, and unlike Arkansas in last year’s dominant Tide win over Tyler Wilson and the top passing game, the O line can block. Last year, the Hog offensive line struggled in pass protection, and it showed with constant pressure into the backfield, even though there was only one sack. Tennessee’s front five has given up just three sacks on the year, helped immensely by Bray’s ability to get the ball out of his hands. Unlike last season, Alabama relies a little bit more on its pass rush, but the defense might not be able to disrupt things like normal this week. If Bray gets time, watch out.

What To Watch Out For: How healthy is AJ McCarron? There have been conflicting reports about how bad his knee injury might be, but he’s definitely playing and the team is saying the injury isn’t anything serious. Because he’s the quarterback on the nation’s top team, he’s on the fringe of the Heisman discussion, and last year he threw for a career-high 284 yards and a score with a pick. If he can play Bray evenly and get the win, that might be enough to get more of a look. However, Bray will have to carry the entire offense and needs to have an All-America caliber game. Leading rusher Rajon Neal is hurting with an ankle injury, and while Dervin Young and Marlin Lane have promise and talent, Alabama isn’t the team to test out a few options. If Bray isn’t phenomenal, Tennessee can’t win.

What Will Happen: Oh yeah, the Alabama running game. The Tennessee defensive front has been way too soft against the run, getting ripped up by Georgia and Florida, and it’s about to get steamrolled by the great Tide offensive front. Bray will have a decent day, but it won’t be enough to overcome 250 yards and the grinding drives that will come from the Alabama attack.

CFN Prediction: Alabama 38 … Tennessee 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Alabama -20 O/U: 55.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Seven Psychopaths, 1 – Here Comes the Boom): 3.5