Prediction Panel: Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama

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    Photo by Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

    The RTI team makes their picks for the Vols’ match-up with the Alabama Crimson Tide this upcoming Saturday. Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee share their predictions for the Third Saturday in October.

    Nathanael’s Pick

    Unless Alabama experiences a rash of injuries between now and Saturday night, I just don’t see any way in the world Tennessee wins this game. Really, I don’t see how the Vols keep it all that close unless the Tide experience a ton of health issues or anything of the sort.

    Alabama’s offense gives Tennessee possibly the worst match-up they could conceive. The Tide have four legit NFL wide receivers and a legit NFL quarterback throwing them the ball. Alabama also has probably the second-best offensive line in the SEC (behind only Georgia) and a stellar rushing attack just in case the passing game isn’t firing like it should.

    No, Alabama’s defense isn’t the same defense they’ve had in previous years. But the Vols haven’t been a particularly high-scoring offense against any FBS opponent this season, and Alabama is still only allowing 17 points a game to opponents.

    Even if Brian Maurer starts and if Jeremy Pruitt implements the plan he joked about earlier this week about onside kicks, going for it on fourth down, and taking a lot more risks, this game will be out of hand by the time the third quarter is halfway through. It’ll probably be “over” before that point, but I felt like being a little generous.

    Tennessee has lost by over 30 points to Alabama in three-straight seasons. I think they make it four-straight years on Saturday, and the Tide could very well make it an ugly one. But maybe Nick Saban will call off the dogs in the fourth quarter.

    Pick: 52-16, Alabama

    MVP: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB

    Unless the Tide have a defensive player just ball out and intercept multiple passes or rack up multiple sacks, I don’t see how Tagovailoa isn’t the MVP of this game. Last year, he lit up the Vols to the tune of 306 passing yards and four touchdowns without tossing an interception, and he only played about half the game. This season, he already has over 2,000 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and just one pick. If he doesn’t go for 300-plus yards and five touchdowns, it’ll be a minor miracle.

    Ben’s Pick

    Alabama’s offense is the epitome of a terrible match-up for Tennessee’s defense, which is why it ultimately doesn’t matter how much offense the Vols can muster up. On Monday, Jeremy Pruitt talked about how Alabama has to actively try not to score 100 points and about how Nick Saban was nice to Tennessee in that sense last season.

    After word got out that a couple of Vols have said that this Alabama team isn’t one that can win a National Championship, Saban might just try to drop 100 on Tennessee’s head this weekend.

    The Crimson Tide are elite at every position on offense. Frankly, Tennessee is not. In order for this to be a ball game in the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa will have to had thrown multiple interceptions. Considering he’s thrown 27 touchdowns to one interception in six games, it’s not something I would bank on happening.

    Tennessee’s offense has a slightly better match-up than Pruitt’s defense. Alabama’s defense is good, but it’s not the dominant Alabama defense that we’ve become used to each and every year. The Vols will have a chance to score some points on Saturday, but it won’t matter because ultimately Alabama’s offense will prove to be too much.

    Pick: 58-20, Alabama

    MVP: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB

    The Crimson Tide quarterback has been ridiculously good this year. Tagovailoa is completing 73.6 percent of his passes, and he’s thrown for 2,011 yards and 27 touchdowns to just one interception. In just six games.

    Against an average at best Tennessee secondary, Tagovailoa and Alabama’s talented group of wide receivers should have a field day.