Alabama At Tennessee Game Preview: Everything You Need To Know Before Kickoff
No. 4 Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) at Tennessee (3-4, 0-3 SEC)
When: Saturday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee
Weather: Sunny with a high of 72 degrees and low of 53, winds WNW at 4 mph, 0 percent chance of rain.
TV: ESPN2 (Play-by-play: Joe Tessitore, color analyst: Brock Huard, sideline reporter: Shannon Spake)
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (Play-by-play: Eli Gold, color analyst: Phil Savage, sideline reporter: Chris Stewart).
Spread: Alabama (-16-17), according to Danny Sheridan. The Crimson Tide has now been favored in 62 consecutive games, starting with its 2009 BCS National Championship Game victory over Texas.
Last Meeting: The then-No. 1 Crimson Tide routed Tennessee, 45-10, in Tuscaloosa on October 26, 2013.
Series History: Alabama leads the all-time series, 50-38-7 (51-37-8 without including Alabama’s 1993 forfeit and 2005 vacated win enforced by the NCAA). The Crimson Tide has won seven straight meetings in the series dating back to the 2007 season – Nick Saban’s first at Alabama.
From start to finish, the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide clicked on all cylinders, blowing out No. 21 Texas A&M, 59-0 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama raced out to a 45-0 halftime lead – including a school record 35 points in the second quarter alone – while gaining an astonishing 449 yards to the Aggies’ 51.
T.J. Yeldon led all rushers with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and Amari Cooper was tops in receiving with 140 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches. Quarterback Blake Sims, who had struggled the previous two weeks on the road, passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns on 16-of-27 passing, along with a 43-yard score on the ground.
Alabama finished with 602 yards of offense and limited Texas A&M – which had been the No. 4 offense in the nation coming into the game – to just 172 yards. After back-to-back games marred by turnovers and penalties, the Crimson Tide had zero in each against the Aggies.
It was Alabama’s largest of victory since defeating Tulane 62-0 in 1991, and the largest against an SEC school since a 66-3 win over Vanderbilt in 1979.
After losing by a combined four points in its first two SEC games against Georgia and Florida, the Volunteers were blown out 34-3 at No. 3 Ole Miss to continue its winless SEC record in 2014.
The Rebels, which improved to 7-0 with the win, scored 34 unanswered points after Tennessee took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Vols quarterback Justin Worley threw for 191 yards and three interceptions in the loss. Josh Malone caught five passes for 75 yards and linebacker A.J. Johnson had 10 tackles.
Tennessee was held to 191 total yards of offense, including zero yards rushing. Ole Miss gained 383 yards on offense.
Keep an eye on:
Blake Sims, quarterback: There’s been a drastic difference between Sims’ play at times this season, and it has all seemingly come down to where he is playing. At home, he has been at the forefront of an Alabama offense that has looked close to unstoppable when playing in front of an Alabama-heavy crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium (or in the Georgia Dome for a neutral site game). On the road, his struggles have been well documented, something that could very well be the case again in what is expected to be a hostile environment due to former head coach Lane Kiffin’s return.
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator: Aside from Nick Saban’s first trip back to LSU as Alabama’s head coach, Kiffin’s return to Tennessee on Saturday may be the most anticipated return ever by a coach to his former school. Like Sims, Kiffin has not looked nearly as effective on the road as he has at home this season, with Alabama’s offense limited to its two worst performances of the season away from home. With Kiffin being the obvious target of Tennessee fans in this game, his work should be cut out for him once again.
Justin Worley, quarterback: Will he even start? That’s a question that has yet to be answered by Tennessee coach Butch Jones, and it very well might not be answered until the kickoff on Saturday night. Despite his inconsistent play, Tennessee will be a lot better off with their senior quarterback than without him if it hopes to pull the upset.
A.J. Johnson, linebacker: It’s hard to argue for a better player on the Tennessee roster than A.J. Johnson. Now a senior, Johnson has led a key role in the Vols defense in his four years at Tennessee, including this season where he leads the SEC in tackles with 78. Tennessee’s defensive performance against an Alabama offense that’s capable of putting up huge numbers will go as far as Johnson takes them.
- Center Ryan Kelly is expected to start in his first action since going down with a sprained knee at the beginning of the month in the loss to Ole Miss. Kelly has practiced all this week for the first time since sustaining the injury.
- Right tackle Austin Shepherd, who sprained his knee and ankle against Texas A&M, returned to practice this past Wednesday and is expected to start.
- Starting quarterback Justin Worley (shoulder) is listed as probable, though some doubt still remains if the senior will be able to play against Alabama. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said on Thursday that the Volunteers would use both its second- and third-string quarterbacks if Worley is unavailable.
- Starting redshirt junior left guard Marcus Jackson is probable with an undisclosed injury. Tennessee has allowed 30 sacks this season, second-worst in the nation.
- Starting freshman right tackle Coleman Thomas is also listed as probable with an ankle injury.