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It’s been a long time since Tennessee fans have had the pleasure of smoking the traditional Third Saturday in October victory cigar. Unfortunately for Vols faithful, they’re not likely to be able to light up this year, either.
Alabama has beaten Tennessee 14 times in a row. Nick Saban has never lost to Tennessee as the head coach of the Crimson Tide.
The 105th edition of the bitter rivalry may not prove to be a hard fight, but it is always fun watching Alabama beat the Vols, no matter the score.
The Tide enters Saturday as huge favorites. Here are five reasons why Alabama will extend its winning streak against Tennessee.
5. The talent gap is too large for UT to overcome
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis Bryce Young
Since 2018, the Vols have signed just two five-star recruits out of high school. Of those two, only offensive tackle Darnell Wright remains.
In comparison, Alabama has signed 16 five-star recruits in the same period.
The talent gap is prominent, whether Vols fans want to admit it or not. While recruiting evaluations aren’t everything, they play a large role and are a big reason why Alabama has been so successful since Saban joined the program.
The depth employed by the Tide will be a big factor in this game, and I don’t expect the Vols to overcome the glaring talent differential.
4. Vols starting QB may not be available
*DUP*Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) is helped off the field towards the end of the NCAA college football game between Tennessee and Ole Miss in Knoxville, Tenn. on Sunday, October 17, 2021.
While Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker remains a game-time decision, if he doesn’t see the field the Vols will not be able to move the ball very well.
Since Hooker took over in Week 2, the Vols offense has improved tremendously. He has thrown 14 touchdown passes and just one interception which came in Week 2 in the loss to Pitt.
As a rusher, Hooker has looked good as well. He’s added 390 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns.
This dual-threat ability adds to the complexity of a defensive strategy. If he can’t go, stopping Joe Milton will prove remarkably easier. He has issues with progressions and accuracy.
If Hooker doesn’t go, expect the Tide defense to be all over the ball.
3. Alabama knows they can't lose again
Oct 9, 2021; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Demond Demas (1) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Jordan Battle (9) and linebacker Henry To’oTo’o (10) in the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Nothing is scarier than an Alabama team that has already lost a game and can’t afford to drop another.
During Saban’s tenure as head coach, Alabama has only finished a season undefeated just twice.
This includes six national championships. So, essentially, an Alabama team that has already lost a game is nearly impossible to beat. It’s as if the loss sends a message that reverberates through the locker room significantly.
Alabama teams that lose simply don’t lose again. I expect this trend to continue throughout the remainder of the season.
2. Tennessee allows a lot of sacks
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – DECEMBER 05: Will Anderson Jr. #31 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after a sack against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
With Will Anderson lurking on the edge for Alabama, it’s not a good look for the Vols when they’re already allowing the most sacks in the SEC.
At 25 sacks allowed on the season, the Vols are going to have their hands full with the SEC’s leader in sacks and tackles for loss.
It will be even harder for Tennessee’s offensive line to stop Anderson if starting Vols right tackle Cade Mays is out or limited on Saturday.
Expect the Tide defensive line, especially Anderson, to eat whichever Vols quarterback that takes snaps alive.
1. Alabama's offense is too much for Vols to handle
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports Bryce Young
At 45 points and 482.6 yards per game, this Alabama offense led by quarterback Bryce Young has been electric.
Young ranks first in the conference in passer rating (180.4) and touchdowns (24). He also ranks second in both yardage (2,082) and completion percentage (69.2%).
Not to mention the guy behind him, Brian Robinson, is a playmaker in his own right. He ranks second in the SEC in yards from scrimmage with 744 yards. He has also added eight touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.
It’s not likely that Tennessee’s defense will be able to do a whole lot to stop Alabama from moving the ball and scoring at will.
Expect a lot of yards and points from the Alabama offensive attack.
You can watch Alabama square off against Tennessee at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.