Let’s not kid ourselves here: There’s a very small chance that this game is competitive at all. Alabama has only allowed three touchdowns in four SEC games this season, and two of them have come in the last five minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, the Vols have gone 10 quarters without scoring a touchdown. They’ve totaled 9 points in their last two SEC games against Georgia and South Carolina, and they’ve managed just 26 points total in their last three games. And that includes a match-up with winless UMass.
The Vols’ only hope to score a touchdown in this game, in my opinion, is on special teams. The Tide haven’t been nearly as dominant there as they have been in every other phase, and Evan Berry could finally be returning to action.
But if he can’t manage a score, Tennessee may be shut out for the second time in three games. Or they may have to settle for a field goal or two if they can get lucky.
Tennessee and Butch Jones have faced some great Alabama teams, but this could truly be the best one they’ve faced. And that’s saying something when you look back at the last four or five years.
Pick: Alabama 49-6
MVP: Jalen Hurts, QB
Alabama’s offense can make plays without Jalen Hurts having a big game, but his skill set seems particularly suited to shred the Vols apart in this game. If Hurts can’t find some room through the air, expect him to repeat what he did to Tennessee last season and burn them on the ground.
Jalen Hurts is too good. And I think he’ll sit for most of the fourth quarter since this game will be out of reach early. Damien Harris will be able to wear down the Tennessee defense, who will really miss Darrell Taylor on Saturday. I don’t think the Vols will be able to get any pressure on Hurts, which means he’ll be able to get out of the pocket when the secondary does its job.
However you spin it, there’s just no way that Tennessee wins this game. I’ll be shocked if they cover, because once the Vols get down by multiple touchdowns, the wheels will fall off. Butch Jones may not have lost the entire locker room, but there has to be some doubt there.
I think you’ll see a lot of frustration from the Vols, who are about to be sub .500 once again just like the Dooley days and the early Jones tenure. And like those years, they may not have a winning record again for the rest of the year. If things get out of hand, expect a press conference on Monday to start a coaching search.
Pick: Alabama 48-6
MVP: Jalen Hurts, QB
Tennessee can’t get pressure on the quarterback unless the secondary gives perfect coverage. And that’s not going to happen very often against elite wide receivers. So Hurts will have time to either pass or scramble wherever he wants. And when he’s out of the pocket, he turns into a running back. He won’t play the entire game, but he’ll be the reason why the Vols’ defense won’t be able to get off the field.