Head Coach: Nick Saban, 11th season (126-19 overall)
Team Nickname: Crimson Tide
Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Leading Passer: Jalen Hurts — 82-of-130, 1,025 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT
Leading Rusher: Damien Harris — 68 carries, 625 yards, 9 TDs
Leading Receiver: Calvin Ridley — 33 receptions, 441 yards, 2 TDs
Alabama is an unstoppable force this season. Their offense is good enough to win games even if their defense was only above average to good.
But unluckily for Tennessee and every team that’s played the Tide this season, Alabama’s defense is much, much better than just “good.”
The Tide comes into this game with the top scoring defense in the SEC, and they’re second in the conference in yards allowed per game. They’re only allowing 66.7 rushing yards per game, and they’ve forced 14 turnovers on the season, the second-most in the conference. They also have the best third down defense in the SEC, holding opposing teams to just a 27.1 percent conversion rate.
None of this is good news to a Tennessee offense that has struggled to put points on the board over the last three games.
Tennessee comes into this game on a touchdown drought. The Vols haven’t scored a touchdown in 10 quarters dating back to the second quarter of the UMass game. In fact, the Vols have totaled just 26 points over the last three games combined. Meanwhile, they have had 19 offensive drives end in three-and-outs or a turnover in that same stretch.
Alabama has given up just eight touchdowns all season, and they’ve only allowed three in four SEC games.
Not only that, but the Vols have one of the worst third down offenses in the entire conference. Tennessee has converted on third down just 34.5 percent of the time. Only Florida (33.3 percent) has a worse percentage in the SEC.
As if thinking about dealing with Alabama’s defense wasn’t bad enough, the Tide’s offense is formidable as well.
Tennessee’s defense this season has performed better than expected, especially when it comes to defending the pass. The Vols actually have the best passing defense in the SEC in terms of yards allowed per game (129.2 yards allowed a game). Granted, the Vols haven’t faced many potent passing attacks, but they did make capable passer Jake Bentley for South Carolina look bad last week and held him to his worst performance all season thus far.
But Alabama’s offense is another monster entirely.
Alabama has scored more points per game than any other SEC school (42.7), and they’ve outscored conference opponents 193 to 31 in four SEC games this season. No SEC team is averaging more rushing yards per game (302.6) or run for more rushing touchdowns (24) so far this season.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is dangerous as a passer because of his offensive line and pass catchers. But he’s even more of a weapon on the ground. Damien Harris leads the team in rushing, but Hurts is second with 558 rushing yards and six scores on just 79 carries.
Alabama’s offense is more than just Hurts, but he’s the catalyst for everything the Tide want to do. And slowing him down is no easy task.
Simply put, Tennessee is out-matched in just about every way possible in this game. Alabama’s offense is potent, and their defense is even better than that. Nick Saban has dominated SEC opponents so far this year, and the Vols will be lucky if they can end their touchdown drought in this game.