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    (Photo via Getty Images)

    Tennessee finally found a way to get an SEC win last weekend when they defeated Mississippi State 20-10 in Knoxville. But the Vols’ task this weekend is much, much more difficult.

    The Vols (2-4, 1-2 SEC) are traveling down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to take on the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 SEC) for a late kick-off. The Tide are averaging 51 points a game this season, and they’ve won every game they’ve played by at least 19 points.

    The Third Saturday in October used to be one of the most talked about rivalries in college football. But over the last decade, Alabama (and Tennessee’s decline) has made it into a lopsided affair.

    Alabama has won 12-straight games against the Vols dating back to Tennessee’s last win in the series in 2006. Most of those Tide victories haven’t even been close, either. Alabama has defeated the Vols by 20 or more points in nine of their 12-straight wins, and that includes three-straight wins of 30-plus points.

    Last season, the Tide scored the most points they ever have against the Vols in the entire series’ history. The two teams have played annually since 1928, and Alabama’s 58 points in last season’s 58-21 win were the most the Tide had ever scored against the Vols.

    That number could be threatened again this Saturday.

    Tennessee played their best game of the 2019 season last Saturday against Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs’ offense is no comparison to Alabama’s. The Tide’s offense is led by Heisman hopeful Tua Tagovailoa, who has already thrown for over 2,000 yards in six games and has tossed 27 touchdowns and only one interception.

    Alabama’s defense isn’t as good as previous Nick Saban defenses, but they’re still in the top half of the SEC in most major defensive statistical categories.

    The Vols are massive underdogs for Saturday’s rivalry game, but with the upset of unranked South Carolina over No. 3 Georgia from last weekend fresh in the minds of Vol fans and college football fans everywhere, there’s a sense of “anything can happen” from UT’s players.

    Take a look at what we’re “buying and selling” about the game. Also be sure to check out our opponent preview and read through our score predictions for the game.

    If you can’t make it to the game, here’s how you can watch or listen to the Vols’ match-up with the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Kickoff: 9:00 Eastern, October 19th, Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, AL)

    TV: ESPN (Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Todd McShay, Molly McGrath)

    Streaming Online: ESPN.com/Watch, ESPN app

    Radio: Vol Network, XM 383

    Line: Alabama (-34.5)



      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.



        Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

        Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee will “buy or sell” the likelihood of several things happening each week before a Tennessee football game. Here are their takes on the Vols’ match-up with their bitter rival, No. 1 Alabama.

        Buy or Sell: Brian Maurer starts and doesn’t get pulled because of injury or health issues. 

        Nathanael: I’m going to buy this. I think Maurer starts on Saturday, and I think he ends up getting pulled in the game, but I don’t think it’ll be because of injury or lingering issues from his concussion. At some point, Alabama is going to pull away and have an insurmountable lead. I think then is when the staff will pull Maurer in favor of Guarantano just to ensure Maurer doesn’t take an unnecessary hit late in the game like he did against Georgia.

        Ben: I’m buying. When Jeremy Pruitt was asked about the status of Maurer this week, I didn’t catch on to any doubt that he wouldn’t play. To me, it was more gamesmanship than anything while also being careful in regards to a concussion. Maurer practiced every day this week, so I believe he’ll start. If he gets pulled due to health issues, it’ll be because of a different injury.

        Buy or Sell: Tennessee totals 20 points or more against Alabama.

        Nathanael: I’ll sell, if only barely. I think Tennessee gets 17 points on Saturday. The Vols haven’t put up a lot of points in SEC games this season, and while this game will likely be a different animal than UT’s previous three conference games, I just don’t see this offense putting up 20 or more points on Alabama. Tennessee only barely eclipsed that mark last year because the Tide stepped off the gas pretty early. It was 28-0 at the end of the first quarter and 42-14 at halftime. The Vols lost 58-21, but it could’ve easily been 72-14 or something like that. This Alabama defense isn’t as good as last year, but Tennessee has also turned the ball over a lot this year.

        Ben: I’m buying. This Alabama defense isn’t the Alabama defense we’re used to. It’s not to say the Crimson Tide are bad on that side of the ball, but when was the last time we saw a Nick Saban defense allow 17.0 points per game, 133.2 rushing yards, 202.8 passing yards, and 336.0 total yards? Alabama gave up 23 points to South Carolina, 31 points to Ole Miss and 28 points to Texas A&M — all average offenses. I expect for Tennessee to have some offensive success.

        Buy or Sell: The Vols hold the Tide to under 45 points. 

        Nathanael: Nope, ain’t happening. I would be absolutely stunned if Tennessee held the Tide below their season average of 51 points a game, let alone below 45 points. Alabama has been held under 45 points exactly one time all season, and that was in their first game against Duke. Even then, they got close, winning 42-3. The Tide dropped 47 on South Carolina, 59 on Ole Miss, and 47 on Texas A&M. I think you’ll see Bama eclipse 50 points for the second-straight year against Tennessee.

        Ben: Sell all day long. This Alabama offense is ridiculously good. Tua Tagovailoa, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Najee Harris form a terrible match-up for a Tennessee defense that has lacked a consistent pass rush all season long. Oh, and arguably Tennessee’s best defensive player — Henry To’o To’o — is suspended for the first half of the game.

        Buy or Sell: Tennessee gets more than one sack against the Tide.

        Nathanael: I’ll sell this one. I think the Vols can maybe get one sack against this stout Alabama offensive line, but I would be pretty surprised if they get more than that. UT’s defensive line played their best game of the season last weekend against Mississippi State, but even then it took really good coverages from Tennessee’s secondary and some bad decisions and holding the ball too long from MSU’s quarterbacks for some of the sacks to happen. Alabama has a much, much, much better offense than Mississippi State, and Georgia is probably the only team in the SEC with a better offensive line than the Tide. The Vols got zero sacks and two tackles for loss against Georgia. I don’t think they’ll fare a lot better in this game. Last year, Tennessee had a better D-line and couldn’t sack either of Bama’s quarterbacks.

        Ben: I’ll buy simply because SURELY Tennessee can sack Tagovailoa once. In fact, I’ll put my money on Darrell Taylor getting to the quarterback and picking up a sack. Alabama’s offensive line is a good one, however, and they’ve only given up seven sacks on the season. I still think Tennessee can get in the backfield at least once and can get a second sack, too.

        Buy or Sell: Butch Jones shows up on TV more than five times during the game.

        Nathanael: This little man always finds a way to get on the camera, especially when it’s this game. Just take last year for example. I’m definitely buying this, and I’ll be absolutely shocked if he isn’t on ESPN at least half a dozen times.

        Ben: This is the easiest one of the season. Butch Jones will be shown a million times unless he just simply goes missing. And he’ll be talked about just as much, especially if it’s a blowout in the fourth quarter.



          Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

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          Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee answer your best questions about Tennessee athletics and anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing.

          “Should Pruitt treat this Bama game like a NFL preseason game and sit the main guys after 2 or 3 series? I say live to fight more beatable opponents.” – Scott

          Nathanael: Nah. I understand where you’re coming from because this seems like an unwinnable game, and the rest of Tennessee’s schedule is full of winnable contests. So why risk injury and demoralization of your starters by playing them in this game?

          That’s fine for fans and media members to talk about, but I’d be very, very concerned if a head coach thought that way. Unless you’re an FCS school playing an FBS program and the game has no bearing at all in what you’re hoping to accomplish for the season, there’s no excuse for thinking this way as a football coach. Even in that scenario, though, I would think it was pretty inadvisable for a head coach to think like that.

          Ben: Heck no. That sends a terrible message to your entire team and that establishes a very poor, losing culture. Yes, Tennessee is likely to be blown out on Saturday night. But it’s okay for people outside of the program to talk like that. Not the coaches, players, or anybody associated with the program in any way. The only way I pull the “main guys” after two or three series is if they aren’t playing with effort. And I can promise you that won’t be a problem with guys like Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Trey Smith, and Daniel Bituli.

          “If Vols finish 5-7, will that be a success?” – @tjvol49

          Nathanael: No, it wouldn’t be a “success,” but it would avoid the season being dubbed a “failure.” If the Vols go 5-7 overall after starting out 1-4 with losses to BYU and Georgia State, fans are going to be pretty upset that Tennessee missed out on a bowl game because they didn’t find a way to beat Georgia State or hold on to a lead against BYU. For those reasons alone, I don’t think a 5-7 record would be a success this season. It would avoid it being a “failure,” though, because Tennessee would’ve turned things around to avoid a catastrophic season like it looked like they were going to have after that 1-4 start. It wouldn’t be a success, but it’s much easier to sell to recruits and much less detrimental to the fans.

          Ben: I say yes because what the beginning of the season taught us was that this team wasn’t a seven or an eight win team — despite what many thought they could be. This team is 6-6 at best. So while 5-7 will be a sore eye because it’ll be the same record as in year one, it’ll also be somewhat of a minor miracle with the way the season started. 5-7 would also tell me that the team got better over the course of the season, which is very important.

          “Would Tennessee benefit from using a 2 QB system the rest of the year?” – @Georgia_VOL

          Nathanael: Interestingly enough, I had this debate with former RTI contributor Aby Goodman on the RTI Show on Thursday. She said she believed Tennessee will play both Maurer and Guarantano in games the rest of the season. I don’t see it happening unless Maurer gets hurt (which he has in his first two starts) or if he just can’t play well enough to keep his job. Guarantano doesn’t do anything particularly better than what Maurer does, so I don’t really see how Guarantano warrants getting playing time outside of Maurer getting hurt, ejected, or playing poorly. I also don’t think it benefits the Vols to do so. It’s very rare for dual-quarterback systems to actually work out. Usually, they end up destroying the flow of the offense or ruining the confidence of one of the QBs.

          Ben: No. Two-quarterback systems suck. It is extremely rare that they actually benefit the offense. Instead, they disrupt the rhythm of the quarterback, as well as the entire offense. Look at Florida. Kyle Trask is without a doubt the best quarterback on that roster, but for some reason Dan Mullen feels the need to play Emory Jones at the same time. Every time Jones comes in, the offense sputters.

          “Why haven’t the Vols tried to get Jennings the ball more? I have been asking for 2 years why they don’t put him in the Wildcat and sling it around some and then let him run it.” – @BigOrangeGunner

          Nathanael: Jennings has more than double the amount of catches as the second-leading receiver on UT’s roster. He has 29 receptions, and Marquez Callaway is second with 13. I don’t really know what more you want from him at this point. He’s on pace to have almost a 1,000-yard receiving year. I also don’t see a reason to play him at quarterback. He’s not a great quarterback outside of his running ability, and that’s limited more now than when he first got to UT because of all his injuries and surgeries. Maurer can run and throw better than him.

          Not getting Jauan Jennings the ball is far from one of the biggest problems with this team. He’s gotten the ball plenty. You can’t just feed him and nobody else. That’ll lead to guys like Callaway, Josh Palmer, and others getting disengaged and frustrated. You don’t want that.

          Ben: Jauan Jennings is one of the most productive receivers in the SEC. So, I don’t know what more you want from him and him being utilized. Aside from the Mississippi State game, he’s been the No. 1 target in every single game this season.

          What’s the purpose of playing Jennings at quarterback? All three quarterbacks throw the ball 10 times better than he can. Plus, Maurer is definitely more mobile, and because of Jennings’ multiple knee surgeries, Guarantano is just as mobile.

          “Do you think Tyler Byrd gets more involved in the game plan more after the Miss. State game?” – @roy__rogers__

          Nathanael: I think so, but I don’t think you’ll see him have the kind of game he had against Mississippi State on a regular basis. Moving Tee Martin down onto the field will ensure the Vols use more of a rotation at wide receiver, and defensive coordinators are going to start keying in more and more on Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. I think Byrd gets more involved, but so will Josh Palmer, Ramel Keyton, Cedric Tillman, and Dominick Wood-Anderson. I also hope UT’s running backs get utilized more in the passing game.

          Ben: I’d say so, because the reason he was so involved in the Mississippi State is because Bob Shoop did a tremendous job of taking Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway out of the game. Every defensive coordinator the remainder of the way will try to do the same, and if they’re successful, that’ll open up the door for Byrd, Ramel Keyton, and Cedric Tillman to be more productive.

          “Seems a little cold on the football recruiting trail lately. Anything new going on or is it just typically a slow time of year?” – @vo_ldemort

          Nathanael: It’s partially because this is a slower time of year and because recruits are waiting to see if the Vols can turn a corner and show progress. Recruits are in the middle of their seasons, so most of them are focusing on playing and trying to make it to the playoffs. They are taking visits and stuff, but this isn’t a popular time for commitments. Plus, a lot of Tennessee’s targets want to see if the Vols can turn things around after their brutal start. The Mississippi State game is a step in the right direction, but we won’t know till November if that was a fluke or not.

          Ben: It’s not necessarily a slow time of the year. Recruits are just waiting to see which way Tennessee’s season swings. Several of the Vols’ targets have declared on multiple occasions that they need to see some sort of progress this season. The horrid start to the season clearly did Tennessee no favors, but let’s see if the Mississippi State gets them back on track. The Vols have a golden opportunity beginning with the South Carolina game next Saturday to string together some wins to end the season, which would in turn really swing momentum in their favor.

          “What does a successful season look like this year for the basketball team?” – Sam

          Nathanael: I think success this season would be making to the NCAA Tournament, and not just sneaking in. I think barely getting in obviously wouldn’t be a failure, but it would be difficult to call a 19-15 or similar Tennessee team a “success” to me, even with them losing the amount of production they did. I think a successful season would be at least hitting that 20-win threshold, and I believe this team is capable of that if they stay healthy and if Uros Plavsic is eligible. If Plavsic doesn’t get eligibility, we’ll reexamine what a “successful season” looks like.

          Ben: Making the NCAA Tournament — especially if Uros Plavsic is ruled eligible. This team doesn’t have the talent on the roster that it did last season to make a deep run, but they’re still good enough to finish in the top-half of the SEC, which would result in a tournament berth. The team will go as Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden goes. I believe the senior duo will have a big season, and I trust Rick Barnes to have the rest of the team ready to play.

          “Looking back at last year’s home Kentucky win for the basket-Vols, what kind of enormous shoes do Turner and Bowden have to fill to replace the gaping holes of Bone and Williams? Note: My new neighbors are Kentucky fans. I need this.” – Serena

          Nathanael: Make no mistake about it: The Vols have huge roles to fill with the departures of Williams, Schofield, Bone, and Alexander. But it’s not an impossible task at all, and Rick Barnes has already mentioned he plans on changing his style this season to be more guard-oriented. He has to, because UT doesn’t have the post presence they’ve had the last two seasons. But if Uros Plavsic gets eligible, I really like what he brings to Tennessee’s frontcourt, and I think Olivier Nkamhoua has the ability to be a surprisingly good player even as a true freshman.

          The Vols will obviously be more driven by their guards this season, and that starts with Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, and Josiah Jordan-James. But Bruce Pearl and Auburn showed last year (as have many other teams in the past) that a roster with that kind of makeup can have a lot of success.

          Ben: They definitely have enormous shoes to fill, though I believe Josiah-Jordan James will be relied on to take some of the weight off their shoulders. Barnes has said on multiple occasions that after running the offense through post players — mainly Grant Williams — the past couple of seasons, the offense will run through the guards this year. The play of Bowden, Turner and James will determine if its a smooth transition — especially the play of the senior duo.

          “Lets get serious….. when are we wearing the white tops with those beautiful orange britches???” – Craig

          Nathanael: I would love if that happened this weekend, but I’m afraid the orange pants might be a once a season type thing. I would love to be wrong, because I think this Saturday against Alabama would be the perfect time to wear them. It would call back to the days when both teams would wear their home jerseys when they played each other.

          Ben: Hopefully this weekend. The beautiful orange britches should be worn every single Third Saturday in October.

            This past Saturday, Tennessee’s football team wore their first alternate uniform look since 2017. The Vols suited up in an all-orange look for the first time since 2016, and it marked the first time since UT’s 2017 home game against Georgia that the Vols have worn anything other than their standard home or away designs.

            Tennessee has featured several alternate uniform designs over the last few years, most famously their Smokey Grey looks with Adidas in 2013 and with Nike in 2015, 2016, and 2017. But the Vols have also worn other alternate looks and callbacks to older designs such as their 2004 home game against UNLV with a throwback to the 1980s or in 2009 at home against South Carolina with a black jersey look.

            In this article, though, we take a look at some alternate uniform concepts designed by a Vol fan that Tennessee has never worn. But maybe they should look into it.

            Click the image above to order your Go Big Orange shirt now! Use the coupon code OW15 to get 15% off your order!

            Vol fan, uniform aficionado, and graphic designer Chad Fields has created several alternate uniform designs for Tennessee’s football program and has shared them in this article. Several concepts are based off retro looks in UT’s history, but others are completely new designs that Tennessee has never worn before.

            You can find Chad on Twitter (@CfieldsVFL) and keep up with his work there, and he runs the Vol Uniform History Twitter account (@VolsUniHistory) that keeps track of Tennessee’s designs in football and basketball both.

            Alternate uniforms can cause a lot of debates among fans, but these designs are just for fun. Tennessee as a program isn’t big on wearing anything too far outside of tradition, but some of these designs would be cool to see on a Saturday in the future. At the very least, it’s fun to imagine.

            Here’s a look at 10 different uniform designs and some alternate helmet concepts as well.



              (Photo via Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

              2019 Record: 6-0 overall (3-0, SEC)

              Head Coach: Nick Saban (13th year, 152-21 overall)
              Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

              Leading Passer: Tua Tagovailoa (Jr.) — 134-of-182, 2,011 yards 27 TD, 1 INT
              Leading Rusher: Najee Harris (Jr.) — 74 carries, 451 yards, TD, 6.1 YPC
              Leading Receiver: Jerry Jeudy (Jr.) — 42 receptions, 538 yards, 6 TD
              Leading Tackler: Xavier McKinney (Jr.) — 47 tackles (30 solo), TFL, INT, PD, FF, FR

              Total Offense Rank: 6th (536.8)
              Passing Offense Rank:
              3rd (366.0)
              Rushing Offense Rank: 58th (170.8)
              Scoring Offense Rank: 2nd (51.0)

              Total Defense Rank: 36th (336.0)
              Passing Defense Rank: 44th (202.8)
              Rushing Defense Rank: 47th (133.2)
              Scoring Defense Rank: 14th (17.0)

              Here’s a complete preview of Tennessee’s opponent this Saturday, the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

              Offense

              Alabama’s offense is as good as it gets. Led by junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide’s offense is averaging 51.0 points per game. Only one team in the country averages more — No. 2 LSU.

              It all starts and begins with the run-pass-option, otherwise known as the RPO. Tagovailoa is the best of the best in terms of reading defenses and ball placement. As for the wide receivers he’s throwing the football to, they’re arguably the greatest wide receiver room college football has ever seen.

              “If you watch Alabama, they’ll run the counter and power plays,” Jeremy Pruitt explained while discussing the Crimson Tide’s RPO game during Wednesday night’s Vol Calls. “They’ll get in two-by-two and run the power back into the boundary a lot, and they read the weak-side safety. If he’s coming down, so you’re playing an eight-man front to get an extra hat for the run, they throw the glance route in behind them. If you bring somebody off the head of the slot, they’ll throw it to the field with double slants out there. They can run counters and do the same thing. They can do it out of zone-read. They can read an inside linebacker and instead of zoning it to the inside ‘backer, they blow it and block the end and read the inside linebacker.

              “Everything looks the same, and then they seven-man protect and they’re running three-man routes and they’re running doubles moves off of it, and it’s hard to get pressure on them. They have a nice little combination of what they do in their RPOs, their play-action passes, their seven-man protections, their boots, their waggles, their nekkids. You can affect the quarterback in some ways, but you better be able to guard them in the back end.”

              As a result of the RPO, Tagovailoa has already thrown for 27 touchdowns and just one interception in six games. The Heisman hopeful is also completing 73.6 percent of his passes, which have gone for 2,011 yards this season.

              DeVonta Smith stands as the Crimson Tide’s leading receiver. Although Smith will miss the first half of Saturday’s game due to suspension, he’s caught 38 passes for 636 yards and nine touchdowns.

              While Smith leads the team in receiving yards, Jerry Jeudy leads the team in catches with 42, and he’s totaled 538 yards and six touchdowns on those receptions. Henry Ruggs III has caught 18 passes for 394 yards and five touchdowns.

              It doesn’t stop with Smith, Jeudy, and Ruggs, however. Sophomore Jaylen Waddle also plays a big role in Alabama’s passing game and has the ability to make opposing defenses look silly. On the season, Waddle has 15 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown.

              Alabama can also wear down opposing defenses with its running game led by junior Najee Harris. Complementing Alabama’s passing attack, Harris has rushed for 451 yards and a touchdown on the year. Backup Brian Robinson Jr. has rushed for three touchdowns and 249 yards on 56 carries.

              From left to right, Alex Leatherwood, Evan Neal, Chris Owens, Landon Dickerson, and Jedrick Wills Jr. lead the way for an Alabama offensive line that is really starting to roll. Owens didn’t play at Texas A&M last Saturday due to a knee injury. If he can’t play, Dickerson likely slides over to center, and Deonte Brown enters at right guard.

              On the season, Alabama’s big uglies have allowed just seven sacks by opponents.

              Defense

              Alabama’s 2019 defense isn’t the Alabama defense we’ve come to know. In fact, some have argued that its the worst defense Nick Saban has had during his time in Tuscaloosa. It isn’t necessarily Saban’s fault, however. Alabama was killed with injuries early in the year, and as a result, have had to play young players all throughout the defense.

              Because the Tide have been playing so many young players, Alabama is allowing 17.0 points per game, 170.8 rushing yards, 202.8 passing yards, and 336.0 total yards. That’s good enough for a ranking of 14th, 47th, 44th, and 36th in the country. While not terrible numbers, its nowhere being Alabama-caliber numbers.

              Defensive depth just isn’t great for the Crimson Tide, especially at linebacker following the season-ending injuries to Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillion. Freshmen Shane Lee and Christin Harris have been asked to fill in at the MIKE and WILL spots, respectively. The freshmen duo have flashed their potential quite often, but they’re still adjusting to college football.

              Redshirt junior Terrell Lewis and redshirt senior Anfernee Jennings flank Lee and Harris on the outside. Jennings leads the team in tackles for a loss with seven, while Lewis is second with six.

              Up front along the defensive line, Alabama is led by senior defensive end Raekwon Davis. But Davis only has a single tackle for a loss on the season, and he has failed to bring down the quarterback. Flanked by two freshmen in tackles DJ Dale and Justin Eboigbe, the defensive line has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush this season.

              The strength of Alabama’s defense is without a doubt the secondary — led by safety Xavier McKinney. McKinney and Jennings have been Bama’s most productive defensive players. The junior safety leads the team in tackles (47), has a tackle for a loss, an interception, a pass breakup, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

              Senior Shyheim Carter is Alabama’s other starting safety. Flanking the safety duo of Carter and McKinney is Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain II at corner. Surtain and Carter also play the star/nickel position at times for Saban. As a group, Alabama’s secondary ranks 44th in the country and fourth in the SEC statistically.

              If Alabama doesn’t win a National Championship this season, it’ll likely be because of Saban’s defense. But that doesn’t mean that this defense isn’t talented and productive, because it is.

              Special Teams

              Alabama’s long-living kicker joke remains, and while they’ve struggled at times to punt the football, the Crimson Tide are dynamic in the return game with Ruggs returning kicks and Waddle returning punts.

              Ruggs is averaging 28.7 yards per kick return. Waddle is averaging 22.0 yards per punt return. Sophomore linebacker Ale Kaho blocked and returned a punt for a touchdown against Ole Miss, while redshirt sophomore Tyrell Shavers has returned a punt for a touchdown this season.

              Bama’s kickers have combined to miss four field goal attempts this season. Will Reichard is 4-for-7 on the year with a long of 49 yards. Freshman Joseph Bulovas’ long this year is from 36 yards out. Bulovas is 3-for-4 this season when attempting a field goal.

              Skyler Delong, Alabama’s starting punter, is averaging 33.0 yards on 10 punts this season.