Alabama vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Keys to Victory


It’s the Fourth Saturday in October this year, as Alabama takes on its traditional rival Tennessee in Knoxville. The Crimson Tide (6-1) are coming off of one of the most dominating performances against a ranked opponent in school history in the 59-0 thumping of No. 21 Texas A&M. The Tennessee Volunteers (3-4) return from a bye week after being dominated by third-ranked Ole Miss.

Tennessee has obviously improved from last season, especially on defense, but has dropped four of their previous five games with the only win coming against tiny Chattanooga. This storied rivalry has been dominated under Nick Saban and this game hasn’t even been close since the 2009 slugfest, which featured Alabama’s current offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin as the Vols head coach. Kiffin’s return to Knoxville has been hyped up, but this game has all the makings of a defensive showdown between two of the premier defenses in the SEC.

Here are the keys to another Alabama win.

Continue to dominate the line of scrimmage

Alabama dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball last week against Texas A&M, and must continue to do so against Tennessee. The Vols allowed 289 yards to Georgia. This bodes very well for a resurgent Alabama offensive line and running game, especially with starting center Ryan Kelly returning to this week.

On the other side of the ball, Alabama’s defensive line has been dominant, not allowing anyone to run on them, and in recent weeks really getting after quarterbacks. Tennessee has struggled to run the ball and protect their quarterback. The Vols offensive line has allowed a staggering 30 sacks this season, and quarterback Justin Worley has been beaten up all year.

Tennessee has also averaged just 94 yards per game and under three yards per carry. Against Ole Miss, Tennessee managed a net of zero yards on the ground and just 28 yards against Florida. Most of the big plays Tennessee has allowed in the passing game have been because they have had to dedicate more men to stopping the run.

On defense Alabama is going to throw every exotic blitz it can think of at the Tennessee offensive line and attempt to really knock Worley around to take him out of the game. Getting pressure on the QB is a must, especially against the struggling Vol O-line. I think Tennessee is going to sell out to try and hold the Tide running game in check which is going to give Amari Cooper and company their chances in the passing game. Which is what leads us to the next key.

Blake Sims Must Improve on Road

So far Sims only poor performances have been on the road, where he seems to struggle with the crowd noise. Neyland Stadium is certainly going to be rowdy with the return of Lane Kiffin, so Sims must stay poised and manage the offense with efficiency.

As Tennessee sells out to stop the run early Sims will need to make plays through the air, and will also need to make plays with his legs as he did against A&M. The read option is becoming quite a weapon for Sims and that will help keep the Tennessee defense honest along with the quick passing game. If Amari Cooper receives single coverage, I don’t believe any corner in the country can stop him.

Stay Passionate

The energy and passion the Alabama team showed at the end of the Arkansas game and the entire Texas A&M game was something we haven’t seen in years with Alabama. This has got to continue to keep the momentum going, but at the same time it cannot overcome the team. This team is fired up and having fun right now, if that continues and the team continues to improve and gel together the sky is the limit for the Tide.

Alabama vs. Tennessee kicks off at 6:30 PM (central) on ESPN2. For live coverage stay tuned here or on Twitter if you can’t catch the game.