The rivalry between Alabama and Tennessee has not been the most competitive of series in recent years. If Tennessee’s banged-up skill position players are cleared to play, perhaps the Volunteers will finally be able to make the No. 4 Crimson Tide work for another home victory on Saturday like they did in the 2009 and 2015 games in Tuscaloosa.
|Game: Tennessee (4-3, 2-2) at Alabama (6-1, 3-1)
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Time: 7 p.m. ET
This has not been the most competitive of series in recent years. Alabama has outscored Tennessee 235-68 in the last five meetings Alabama has won the last 14 games in the series and has covered in 10 of those games.
The Crimson Tide are 6-1 against the spread since 2009 when the line is more than 20. Tennessee has covered as a heavy road underdog in three of the last six games in the series.
In last year’s game, Tennessee was a 22-point underdog and trailed by 25 heading into the fourth quarter. Tennessee drove the ball into Alabama territory on both of its drives in the fourth quarter, but the only scoring in the final 15 minutes came on two Crimson Tide field goals, as Alabama won 48-17 and covered for the fourth time in the last five games vs the Vols.
Next game: at Kentucky
Tennessee, a one-point underdog according to the college football spread, trailed by five points after Hendon Hooker’s five-yard run with 13:41 left to play. The Volunteers drove into Ole Miss territory in two drives down the stretch but was called for holding penalties during both possessions and weren’t able to knock off the ranked Rebels.
Tennessee covered in three of its previous four games and it was the fourth straight loss for the Volunteers when the game went under the total.
Hooker ran for 108 yards and threw for 233 more but he was sacked five times. Tennessee recorded 10 tackles for loss for the second straight game.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker was injured in last week’s loss to Ole Miss. Head coach Josh Heupel said he considers Hooker to be day to day. Leading rusher Tiyon Evans, who missed the last game, and offensive lineman Cade Mays are also considered to be day by day. Obviously, if the No. 1 quarterback, who happens to be the Volunteers’ second-leading rusher, top rusher Evans and starting right tackle Mays are out or limited, it will hamper Tennessee’s upset hopes. Linebacker Juwan Mitchell has missed four of the last five games.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Next game: vs. LSU
Things got back to normal after the Crimson Tide suffered their first loss in October since 2014. Alabama was favored by 17½ points according to the sportsbook and used touchdown passes of 46, 75, 51 and 29 yards to win going away vs Mississippi State. Young also scrambled to convert on a couple of third-and-long plays in the 49-9 romp.
Mississippi State trailed by 15 at halftime before Alabama scored on the first offensive play of the third quarter. The Bulldogs managed only three field goals during the 40-point loss.
The game barely went under the 59½-point total as Alabama’s games have only topped the scores and odds’ over/under total twice.
Jordan Battle had two of Alabama’s three interceptions, Henry To’oTo’o continued his impressive play with 13 tackles, a sack and 1½ tackles for loss.
Linebacker Christopher Allen, who had 13 tackles for loss and six sacks last year, hasn’t played since the season-opening win over Miami. Linebacker Drew Sanders has missed the last two games. Running back Jase McClellan is out for the season.
Betting on the Game
The last two games between Tennessee and Alabama have gone under the number and there hasn’t been a streak of three consecutive games in the series going under since 2004-06. Tennessee won two of those games straight up.
The matchup features two of the three Southeastern Conference teams converting at least 50 percent on third down. The Crimson Tide lead the SEC and are 10th among Football Bowl Subdivision teams with a 77.8 percent fourth-down conversion rate as they have been successful on seven of nine fourth-down plays.
Alabama is tied for 10th nationally in turnover margin. The Texas A&M loss was the only game this season when it committed more turnovers than it forced. Tennessee actually owns a slight lead in the turnover department in recent years. Since 2014, Alabama has committed 10 turnovers and Tennessee nine in head-to-head matchups. Tennessee’s Hooker has only thrown one interception in 138 passing attempts while Alabama’s Young has three interceptions in 224 throws.
The ball-security numbers of the quarterbacks are even more impressive considering that Tennessee has allowed 25 sacks, the most in the SEC and Alabama is near the bottom in the conference in this category with 17 sacks allowed. Tennessee hasn’t had more than two sacks in a game against Alabama since 2015. The only game this year when Alabama failed to record a sack was in its loss to Texas A&M. The Tennessee game was one of two sack-less games for the Crimson Tide in 2020.