Staff predictions, week five: Alabama
John Dunn (Founder/Host/Managing Editor)
Rachel Ward (Senior Staff Writer)
Trevor Morris (Junior Staff Writer)
William Allen (Junior Staff Writer)
Tyler Graham (Junior Staff Writer)
Miguel Detillier (Junior Staff Writer)
If you were to ask 1,000 people what one game Tennessee would win this year, odds are you'd have gotten South Carolina, Vanderbilt, or Kentucky as an answer. The Wildcats hadn't beaten the Vols in Neyland Stadium since 1984; a lifetime ago. However, Kentucky left Neyland Stadium with a 34-7 win against Tennessee last Saturday, leaving the Vols reeling ahead of their perennial matchup with the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama.
Alabama comes into the match up ranked as the second-highest ranked team in the country. The Crimson Tide are also riding their longest winning streak in the history of the series with Tennessee, winning 13 straight games.
John Dunn: I honestly don't know what to make of this Tennessee team all of a sudden. To start the season, they looked like a team that had solid players at seemingly every position. They stumbled a little against the Gamecocks before bouncing back against Missouri in their home opener. A good first half against Georgia gave way to six straight quarters of terrible football.
Since the third quarter of the matchup with Georgia, the Vols have allowed 61 points, turned the ball over seven times, and have seemingly lost all momentum. It doesn't help that Alabama is Alabama. We always expect the Crimson Tide to play well, but this may be one of the best teams that Saban has fielded since before 2010.
With Tennessee reeling and looking for answers in various positions, I believe it's going to be a long day for the Vols in Knoxville. I expect Alabama's offense to have a pretty easy day through the air, while racking up crucial TOP and yardage on the ground.
Prediction: Tennessee - 10 | Alabama - 42
Rachel Ward: Tennessee hosts Alabama in week five, taking on currently second-ranked Alabama. It could be easy to predict this matchup and say Bama has it in the bag, but every year, this game turns out to be quite unpredictable (insert a hurt Tua Tagovailoa, a possibility for a one possession game in the middle of the fourth quarter and a fumble at the one yard line).
Alabama fills their quarterback spot with Mac Jones and five-star freshman Bryce Young, while tackle Alex Leatherwood provides pass protection. It hasn’t hurt that Mac Jones has had his fair share of NFL caliber receivers, and this year seems to be no different. Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith rank as top receivers in the nation, while Devonta Smith outranked names such as Tee Higgins, Ceedee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy when playing against press coverage. He also had the most yards per reception in the nation. The Vols’ defensive backs will have their work cut out for them with these two, especially Smith. RB Najee Harris is also a weapon for Alabama’s offense, with his ability to rush through pockets and catch passes.
My initial gut says that this is an unavoidable loss for the Vols, but then again, Tennessee could find themselves in a ball game with Bama in the fourth quarter. Somehow, it seems to work out that way.
Prediction: Tennessee - 21 | Alabama - 35
Trevor Morris: This game is going to be more competitive than we’ve seen in recent history. Tennessee is going to be mad coming off two straight losses to rivals, and won’t want to fall to another one.
I predict that Henry To’o To’o has one of the best games of his career in this one, and Tennessee is going to need him to. The Volunteers don’t have the secondary to cover Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, but hardly any teams in the country do. Getting pressure on Mac Jones and stopping the run game is a must, because Alabama is still going to find a way to move the ball. It won’t be about stopping them, it will be about keeping them out of the endzone, leaving them with field goals.
The Volunteers will need to throw the playbook at this game to throw the Alabama defense off early. Jarrett Gaurantano will need to buy time in the pocket and make throws on the run. Tennessee’s offensive line needs to live up to all the preseason hype, if not better. Tennessee will be playing hungry and desperate with a chip on their shoulder after losing the previous two games. That’s a dangerous combo that I think will end with this being one of the most unexpected and enjoyable games of 2020. Tennessee won’t beat the Crimson Tide, but it will be close.
Prediction: Alabama - 31 | Tennessee - 27 (Morris is 4-0 on predictions this season)
William Allen: It’s no secret the Jarrett Guarantano wants to win vs Alabama after his goal line mistake last year. The Vols were building momentum in that game, and that particular error cost them a possible upset.
Nick Saban returns to Knoxville on October 24th, and he’s bringing 6’2 230 pound star running back Najee Harris and other talented players with him. Jeremy Pruitt has changed the culture at Tennessee and has plenty of experience coaching and recruiting down south. Pruitt previously served as defensive coordinator at Florida State, Georgia and Alabama. There’s no secret that the Vols are bringing in players who play the right way and want to win now. In this fifth game of the season vs. Alabama, I predict an upset. I have the Vols winning a grudge match 36-34 over the Crimson Tide bringing them to 3-2 before the open date.
Prediction: Tennessee - 36 | Alabama - 34
Tyler Graham: The Volunteers welcome the Crimson Tide to Knoxville and look to break a 13-year losing streak. In 2019, The Volunteers played a hard-fought game defensively with Alabama, until the second half.
The Tide would take the 2019 meeting 35-13, in a game where Tennessee would play all three QBs: Brain Maurer would start the game, but after getting injured early in the first quarter; he would be replaced by Jarrett Guarantano. Guarantano went on to play most of the game, however, after going rogue on the Alabama 1 yard line and fumbling; which would lead to an Alabama scoop-n-score, and Guarantano getting benched for J.T. Shrout.
In 2020, The Tide appear to be the same powerhouse they have been under Coach Saban, regardless of missing the College Football Playoffs last year. The Volunteers will have a big task on their hands, and for that reason, my prediction has The Crimson Tide taking thewin.
Prediction: Alabama - 45 | Tennessee - 21
Miguel Detillier: Tennessee will have a mountain to climb on the Third Saturday in October against Alabama, despite the fact it is not technically on the third Saturday this year.
Any team facingthe Crimson Tide, arguably the most dominant team in the SEC over the last decade, would expect to have a bad time facing them, and the Vols are no exception. They managed to hang in there against Alabama last year as Jarrett Guarantano tried to keep the Tide at bay with Brian Maurer out with a concussion during the game as they were down 28-13.
However, Alabama stole the momentum back once Trevon Diggs recovered Guarantano’s fumble on fourth-and-goal before taking off for a 100-yard scoop-and-score, making it 35-13. That play would spell doom for Tennessee, as they wound up suffering an agonizing beatdown to the Crimson Tide.
The Vols will have to face a grimmer situation, going against Alabama in a condensed season, with more tough matchups coming up after the Third Saturday in October. While the Vols managed to contain Alabama’s explosive passing game last year, they may have trouble duplicating it as Mac Jones proved to be a solid quarterback in the absence of Tua Tagovailoa in 2019 and will probably mature even further this season.
Tennessee will also have to cross their fingers on trying to contain Bama’s running game, particularly with Najee Harris, one of the best running backs in the nation. He was one of the main catalysts behind Alabama’s win over the Vols last year, and the Vols hope to not let him have a big game against them again. Guarantano should also hope to put this tough loss behind him last year, however, he should expect to face a tough, but uncertain Alabama defense.
Five players from last year’s team left for the NFL, which could give the Vols some hope they could upset the Tide. It may not matter as Tennessee will have to do everything they can to finally knockdown Alabama for the first time in the Nick Saban era, but the Tide offense will obviously make it tougher for this to happen.
Prediction: Alabama - 37 | Tennessee - 20