- Alabama vs. Tennessee: A Clash of Rivals at Bryant-Denny Stadium
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Alabama vs. Tennessee: A Clash of Rivals at Bryant-Denny Stadium
Overview of the Rivalry
The upcoming showdown between the No. 11 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 17 Tennessee Volunteers is set to be an epic clash between fierce rivals. Dubbed the “Third Saturday in October,” this matchup has a storied history, with both teams vying for supremacy on the football field. Last season, the Volunteers snapped their 15-game losing streak in the series with a thrilling 52-49 win over the Crimson Tide. This victory ignited a frenzy of celebration as the crowd stormed the field. Now, Alabama has the opportunity for revenge and to extend their home winning streak in the series to 10 games.
Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa will be the setting for this highly anticipated matchup. Known as one of the most hostile venues in college football, the stadium is expected to create a challenging environment for the visiting Volunteers. Alabama has lost only once at home this season, a rare defeat against Texas in Week 2. Since then, the Crimson Tide have rallied with five straight victories to establish themselves as the last undefeated team in SEC West league play.
A Change in Philosophy
Tennessee, under the guidance of third-year coach Josh Heupel, has undergone a significant transformation in their playing style. Previously known for their passing attack, the Volunteers have now embraced a potent rushing game as their primary strategy. This shift has paid off, as they rebounded from a loss to Florida and secured consecutive SEC wins over South Carolina and Texas A&M. The change in philosophy adds an intriguing element to this year’s matchup, as it will test Alabama’s defensive prowess against the ground game.
Key Matchup: Quarterback Battle
A significant factor in determining the outcome of the game will be the performance of the quarterbacks. Last season’s meeting saw exceptional play from both Alabama’s Bryce Young and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, who combined for 840 passing yards and seven touchdowns. However, this year’s replacements, Jalen Milroe for Alabama and Joe Milton for Tennessee, have yet to showcase the same level of play. Both quarterbacks are coming off less-than-stellar performances in their previous games, which could further discourage extensive passing attempts by both teams.
The Importance of Pressuring the Quarterbacks
Adding to the challenges faced by the quarterbacks will be the formidable defenses on both sides. Tennessee, ranking third nationally with four sacks per game, and Alabama, ranking fourth with an average of 3.7 sacks per contest, have shown their ability to disrupt opposing quarterbacks. Junior linebacker Dallas Turner has been a standout for Alabama, leading the team with seven sacks. Tennessee’s sophomore defensive lineman James Pearce Jr. and senior defensive lineman Tyler Baron have also contributed significantly in the quarterback pressure department. The intense defensive pressure could further limit the passing game and force both quarterbacks into difficult situations.
The Impact of Special Teams
Special teams have played a crucial role in the outcome of past Alabama vs. Tennessee matchups, with the 2022 contest being decided by a dramatic field goal. Both teams have demonstrated brilliance in this aspect of the game in 2023. Alabama’s kicker, Will Reichard, boasts a perfect 13 for 13 field goal record, earning him a spot on the CBS Sports Midseason All-America team. The Crimson Tide’s punter, James Burnip, ranks third nationally in yards per punt at 48.9. Tennessee, on the other hand, possesses a dangerous returner in Dee Williams, who has already contributed a punt return touchdown this season. The impact of these special teams units should not be overlooked, as they could swing the momentum in a tightly contested matchup.
Prediction: Alabama Squeaks by Tennessee
In terms of predictions, the odds favor Alabama with a spread of -8.5 points. However, the struggles both teams have faced in the passing game, combined with the formidable defenses and the intensity of this rivalry, suggest a close and hard-fought contest. Taking revenge into account, along with the home-field advantage, it seems likely that Alabama will emerge with a narrow victory but fail to cover the spread. The Crimson Tide will need to rely on their defense and find ways to exploit Tennessee’s change in playing style, while the Volunteers will be looking to continue their recent success and surprise their opponents.
- Dennis Dodd: Tennessee +8.5
- Tom Fornelli: Tennessee
- Chip Patterson: Tennessee
- Barrett Sallee: Tennessee
- Shehan Jeyarajah: Alabama
- David Cobb: Tennessee
- Jerry Palm: Alabama
While the majority of our experts lean towards Tennessee, it is crucial to remember that this matchup could go either way. The game is expected to be a hard-fought battle, living up to the historic intensity of this rivalry.
<< photo by Dave Adamson >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.
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