By: The All Vol Call in Show Staff
We've made it to week eight. There are a multitude of big conference match ups this week across the country, including Penn St. v. Ohio St., Duke v. Florida St., Utah v. USC, and more -- but there are none bigger than the Third Saturday in October. Heated SEC rivals Alabama and Tennessee square off in a rematch of one of the best games from 2022, which saw the #Vols break a 15 year losing streak in an incredible 52-49 victory in Knoxville.
The last time Tennessee defeated Alabama in back-to-back seasons was 2003 and 2004. From 1995-2001, Tennessee maintained a seven game winning streak. It is the longest winning streak against Alabama in its history by any team. However, from 2007-2021, Alabama amassed a winning streak of its own, winning 15 straight. Do the #Vols have what it takes to get another victory over the #Tide?
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Alabama and Tennessee feel like they're very comparable teams right now. In any other season, that would be an incredible compliment to Tennessee. However, both teams have their fair share of struggles this year, seemingly in similar areas. Alabama is 81st in passing offense, while Tennessee is 87th. This seems to be each team's weak point. However, Tennessee has the running game to circumvent some of its passing game woes. The Vols are the sixth best rushing team in the nation, with the Tide ranking 70th overall. The offensive advantage leans to Tennessee.
On defense we see an even tighter comparison between the two. Alabama is 18th in rush defense, whereas Tennessee is 20th. In passing defense, the Tide are 22nd, whereas Tennessee is 28th. The teams are borderline dead-even. A look at common opponents and success against common opponents will tell the casual observer that this game is going to be tight, and they may not be wrong. What makes the biggest difference in this game is that it's in Tuscaloosa.
I expect both defensive coordinators to have a very similar plan; stack the box and force Milroe and Milton to win the game through the air. Neither quarterback has show "world beater" abilities from the position this season. It will come down to takeaways and offensive success on the ground. I worry about the Alabama defense causing too much disruption for the Tennessee offense, forcing them to be one-dimensional and only able to run the ball. This will be a test for both teams, and I expect and absolute dogfight until the very end with the Tide adding a touchdown late.
Prediction: Alabama - 31 | Tennessee - 17
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Tennessee's strong running game against Texas A&M is promising, but facing a revenge-driven Alabama will require success in the passing game that the Vols and Joe Milton have not proven they can do at the level necessary to clinch the program's first win in Tuscaloosa since 2003.
Prediction: Alabama - 31 | Tennessee - 17
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This is the hardest prediction I have written, because I can honestly see this game going several different ways. Tennessee has had one road test this season, and that led to the single blemish on their record… and that game
was ugly. Joe Milton didn’t look terrible last week against Texas A&M but he certainly didn’t look good. The rushing attack continues to be elite, and Tennessee has a front seven that can get to any quarterback. However, Tennessee is taking on King Saban in his kingdom.
Heupel must prove to me that he trusts his quarterback on the road. Milton must prove me to that he can make plays in hostile environments against top-tier teams. Tennessee can win this game, but I have Alabama getting revenge. I hope they prove me wrong…
Prediction: Alabama - 31 | Tennessee - 20
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The word on Alabama was they were committed to going back to their old ways before the season started. Playing "joyless murder ball" was the phrase used. Well, that hasn't exactly been the case as the offensive line has been less than stellar and the run game has yet to really find its wheels. They've had some success at times but they've also stumbled as evidence in the 42 total yards rushing against Texas A&M. QB Jalen Milroe has provided a spark on the ground, leading the team in rushing touchdowns. But he also can be a little turnover prone. The Tide has given 100+ on the ground four times including 150+ against South Florida and Mississippi St. I believe through the air is where Bama will look to make a difference taking multiple deep shots to open up the ground game.
Meanwhile the Vols have had big offensive plans that seemingly went out the window for a new scheme as well. Tennessee has been winning this year using rushing and defense. The Vols "gimmick" offense of running the ball and running the ball then running some more and playing defense has led them to the start of another solid year. Much maligned QB Joe Milton hasn't been able to find a true rhythm with the receiving corp as drops and missed passes have plagued both Joe and the receivers all season. Add in the Vols struggles in true road games going back to late last season and this could be a tough Saturday.
Tennessee will again look to try to control this game on the ground and put heavy pressure on Jalen Milroe with emerging superstar James Pearce Jr and veteran Tyler Baron. Public opinion is pretty evenly split on the point spread which is currently at -9 for Alabama. My humble opinion is someone somewhere sold their soul last year for the effort they Vols gave in breaking the streak. While they will spend eternity in Lexington or Athens or whatever purgatory they're assigned, I'm not sure that it will work again this season. I think the Tide gets this one at home.
Prediction: Alabama - 31 | Tennessee - 21