No. 3 Alabama travels to Rocky Top to face No. 6 Tennessee on Saturday in the rivalry known as the “Third Saturday in October.” This edition, however, is very different from those of the last decade and a half. Both teams will enter the game undefeated for the first time since 1989, and it’s only the third time in the Volunteers’ 15-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide that they’ve even been seeded at kickoff. ‘mail.
The Crimson Tide are fresh off their biggest scare of the season, a 24-20 win over Texas A&M last week that ended with a potentially game-winning Aggies pass from the incomplete 2-yard line. The Volunteers rise high after dominating then-No. 25 LSU 40-13 in Death Valley to set up what will be a wild scene in Knoxville, Tennessee.
What to expect on Saturday afternoon? Let’s preview the game and make choices directly and against the spread.
Alabama vs. Tennessee: Need to know
“Bryce Young’s Watch” continues: Alabama coach Nick Saban said Mondaythat Young, his star quarterback and defending Heisman winner, can take the field after missing last weekend’s game with a sprained shoulder. If he doesn’t, it will likely be redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe taking the snaps. Milroe threw three touchdown passes last weekend, but also fumbled twice and threw an interception. Saban wasn’t exactly thrilled with Milroe’s performance.
“I just think Jalen played with a lot of anxiety,” Saban said. “I don’t think he allowed himself to let his training guide him and trust him and believe in it so he could be successful in running plays. You can’t turn the ball over and not run plays. games as they are designed versus reading what you should and shouldn’t do, so those things are all things that we all definitely need to improve so that we can utilize all 11 players in our offensive squad.
The anxiety at home against an unranked opponent is very different from the anxiety on the road in front of over 100,000 fans against the nation’s No. 6 team. If Young can’t go, or even if he’s not 100 percent, Alabama’s outlook will change dramatically.
Tillman back? : Tennessee’s offense ranks seventh in the nation in passing at 340.4 yards per game, and much of that was done without its top receiver. Cedric Tillman underwent “tightrope” ankle surgery in September after just three games, but the senior entered the season as a prime target for quarterback Hendon Hooker. He’s had 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns, and could join Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy in what will be the toughest passing offense the Alabama secondary has faced all year.
“Cedric is fine,” Heupel said on Monday. “That’s part of the reason he had the surgery, it’s to try to be back for this one. He’s still improving over the weekend so we’ll be watching him. At the end of the account, as I said last week, our medical team and Cedric will make the right decision for him, now and in the future too.”
Alabama’s best defense against this crew will likely be a ferocious pass rush led by EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
How to stop Jahmyr Gibbs? : The Crimson Tide’s star running back became the offensive focal point after Young’s injury. He rushed for 206 yards (including two rushes of 70 or more yards) in the win over Arkansas and 154 more last week against the Aggies. Whether Young or Milroe gets the runs, it’s imperative that Tennessee stop him to give themselves a chance.
“He’s explosive, so you know they’re going to try to find ways to get the ball back to him,” Heupel said. “In the running game, it’s better not to let him start. If he does, he has the ability to go the distance. He has good vision and pace behind the line of scrimmage. When he sees a hole he is able to hit it he also does a very good job of making people miss he has to bottle it in the running game then when they also use it in the passing game you have to do great job at taking him and matching him.”
Tennessee gave up just 2.79 yards per carry and 89.2 yards per game rushing. It will be force on force on Rocky Top this weekend.
How to watch Alabama vs Tennessee live
Date: Saturday October 15 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Neyland Stadium — Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: SCS | Direct: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app (free)
Alabama vs Tennessee Prediction, Picks
Featured game | Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Take Tennessee and the dots, but you might want to consider a “silver line sprinkling” on this one. Even if Young plays, he’s unlikely to be 100%. If Alabama’s offense gets bogged down, or even if it just has a few empty possessions, the Vols will have a chance to win this one. This is exactly what I think will happen. Hooker will make a huge statement for the Heisman Trophy in what will be Tennessee’s biggest win in a generation. Prediction: Tennessee (+7.5)
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