Alabama Crimson Tide: Know Your Foe – Third Saturday in October Edition

Tide
TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21: Bo Scarbrough #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide leaps over Shy Tuttle #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers for a touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

This past weekend the Alabama Crimson Tide squared off against the Missouri Tigers. The Tigers held their own in the first quarter keeping the Crimson Tide’s lead at only 13-10 in the first frame. From there on, however, Alabama held Missouri scoreless. The Alabama offense wasn’t as explosive as it has been, but was still able to score 26 more points after the first quarter for a 39-10 conference win.

Scary Moment

Tua Tagovailoa was the topic of discussion for this game as always. But this time, it was for a different reason. Tagovailoa was in a knee brace this week taking precautions for a knee sprain. Everything was going great for Tagovailoa as he threw for 265 yards, three touchdowns, and remained perfect with no interceptions. The scare came when Tagovailoa took an awkward slide. He was able to jog off the field to the medical tent and was seen again on the sideline walking around. Head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Tagovailoa is fine and that it was the same injury sustained earlier in the season. The Heisman favorite did not re-enter the game, although Saban said he could have.

This week used to mean something more than it does now. The time of year when the leaves change color and the air is finally starting to get cool and crisp in the south. The week when the Tide face off against their neighbor to the north; the Tennessee Volunteers. There was a time when this rivalry was bitter and some of the greatest football games played were between Tennessee and Alabama. The Vols faithful believe that those times are coming back sooner rather than later. And after knocking off a ranked Auburn Tigers, they may be on to something. It’s time to Know Your Foe: Tennessee Volunteers.

Alabama Crimson Tide: Know Your Foe – Third Saturday in October Edition

The Tennessee Volunteers have had a tough time over the past decade. Hiring coaches has been like a revolving door in Knoxville. After Phillip Fulmer agreed to step down in 2008, Lane Kiffin was hired as the Vols head coach. Kiffin had a great first season with Tennessee. The Vols came very close to ruining the Tide’s national championship season. That is until Terrence Cody blocked Daniel Lincoln’s game-winning field goal attempt as time expired. Alabama won that game 12-10 and Nick Saban went on to win his first championship at Alabama.

Coaching Turnover

After Kiffin decided to leave Tennessee after just one season to pursue his “dream job” at USC, Vols Athletic Director Mike Hamilton hired Derek Dooley from Louisiana Tech. Dooley was great behind the microphone in press conferences but found very little success on the field. Dooley’s (almost) signature win was short-lived in LSU’s Tiger Stadium as it seemed as though the Vols had upset the tenth-ranked Tigers. Tennessee, however, was penalized for having 13 men on the field. LSU was able to run one play and scored a touchdown for the win.

After Dooley was fired at the end of the 2012 season the Vols hired Butch Jones. Jones found some success at Tennessee. He was able to lead the Vols to three consecutive bowl wins. In his third season in Knoxville, the Vols started the season 5-0 with a streak-ending win against the Florida Gators and a hail-mary touchdown to beat Georgia. All seemed to be going the way of the Vols until they lost a close game to Texas A&M. The team never seemed to rebound after that loss. Last season Butch Jones was fired from Tennessee for having the worst season in Vols football history. Tennessee went winless in the SEC and finished the season 4-8. The Vols, in 121 football seasons, had never went winless in conference play or lost more than 7 games in a season until last year.

Tennessee fired Athletic Director John Currie and brought back a familiar face in Fulmer to take over as the new AD. After a well-publicized and nightmarish coaching search, Tennessee hired Alabama Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the head coach of the Vols.

Key Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers have more wins against the Alabama Crimson Tide than any other team in the nation. Alabama holds the series lead with 55 wins, 38 losses and seven ties against the Vols. Alabama is currently on an 11-game win streak against Tennessee and unless something miraculous happens Saturday in Knoxville, the streak will move to 12. Here are some of the players for the Vols that they will need to be at their best for an upset win over the Crimson Tide:

Quarterback
  • Jarrett Guarantano is a 6’4”, 200-pound redshirt sophomore quarterback. He is the definition of toughness. Last season he was sacked 26 times. He’s already been sacked 11 times this season. It seems like he pops back up every time, though. He’s made some big plays by waiting until the last possible moment to get rid of the ball, playing behind a suspect offensive line. Guarantano has passed for 801 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions this season. His completion rate of 64% is good for fifth in the SEC.
Running Backs
  • Ty Chandler is the Vols’ 5’11”, 201-pound sophomore running back. Last season Chandler played behind current LA Ram John Kelly but was able to get 71 touches and rush for 305 yards and two touchdowns. So far this season he has 40 carries for 247 yards and one touchdown. He has also been used more in the passing game. Chandler has four catches for 53 yards and one touchdown.
  • Tim Jordan is another sophomore running back for the Vols. Standing at 5’11”, 203 pounds, Jordan is more of a power runner.  So far this season he has 63 rushes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide Receivers
  • Josh Palmer is a 6’2”, 201-pound sophomore receiver. He has eight receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown. Palmer has been involved in the running game some as well and has four carries for 31 yards and one touchdown.
  • Marquez Callaway is a 6’2”, 200-pound junior receiver. He has 16 receptions for 231 yards, but no touchdowns this season. Callaway had five touchdowns last season. He’s got big, strong hands and is Guarantano’s go-to target on third down.
  • Jauan Jennings is the biggest of the receiving corps for Tennessee standing 6’3” and weighing 221 pounds. The junior receiver is also the most recognizable for the Vols having caught the hail-mary against Georgia in 2016. This season has not been as productive for him though. Jennings has only 12 receptions for 136 yards and one touchdown. He has a knack for big making big plays at crucial times, though, and is an emotional tone-setter for the offense.
Defense
  • Daniel Bituli is the Vols’ leading tackler. He is a 6’3”, 244-pound junior linebacker with 31 tackles and one sack on the season. The Vols will be without Bituli during the first half against the Tide due to a targeting call against him late in the Auburn game.
  • Kyle Phillips is a 6’4”, 273-pound senior defensive lineman with 25 tackles, one and a half sacks and one forced fumble. Phillips’ nine-tackle performance against Auburn last week earned him SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week honors.
  • Darrell Taylor is a 6’4”, 247-pound junior linebacker. He has 16 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Familiar Face

Former Alabama Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt took over the head coaching position at Tennessee in November of 2017. Pruitt is another product of Nick Saban. He has been very successful everywhere that he has helped coach and has three national championship rings from his time with Alabama and Florida State.

This season had started off rough for Pruitt. It seems to have took a slight turn for the better in Auburn, Alabama this past Saturday when the Vols shocked the Tigers with a 30-24 win. Pruitt has been very vocal since the Vols loss to Georgia about how much the team has grown and how tough they are physically and mentally. No former Saban assistant has been able to beat their mentor and Pruitt would love to be the first. This year may not be the year that he gets to do that though.

Wrap-up and Prediction

Tennessee is coming off a huge win for them against Auburn, so they will be looking to continue their momentum into this once important game. Alabama didn’t have their best game of the season against Missouri, but was still able to win. As Saban faces off against another former assistant one can only wonder how long it will take until one of his former assistants finally breaks through with a win against the mentor. This Saturday will not be the day, though. Alabama rolls, 41-17.

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