Alabama Football: What I Learned Watching Alabama Play Tennessee

Oct 15, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a kick against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a kick against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

Next: Alabama-Tennessee Postgame Notes

The 2016 Alabama football team advanced to 7-0 after dismantling the Volunteers in Knoxville, but what did we learn from them on Saturday?

With each passing week we’ll learn more about the 2016 Crimson Tide squad.  We’ll spot trends as they emerge and puzzle at both the positive and negative outliers throughout the Alabama Football season.

In this weekly feature I’ll highlight a handful of the lessons this team is teaching me.

News Flash, This Alabama Squad is Pretty Good

Alabama is virtually a machine. If you have a weakness, the Tide will double down to exploit it. If you’re not sure whether you have a weakness, the Tide will help you find it.

Against Tennessee, the Tide defense devoured the Volunteer offensive line: holding the orange offense to less than a quarter of their production from a week prior. Meanwhile, the Tide offense feasted on a depleted Tennessee defense to the tune of nearly 600 yards.

Mind you, this was not a directional tech school, but rather the respected Tennessee Volunteers. A top 10 program on the come with a reputation as a never-say-die squad.

However, the Tide was on a mission and a bold statement was made. With still plenty of season left, the list of teams capable of slowing, much less stopping, Alabama is steadily shrinking.

This Alabama team is championship caliber. The challenge now is managing injuries and attitudes until they have the chance to make it official.

Nick Kiffin or is it Lane Saban

Obviously, there is bad blood between Lane Kiffin and Tennessee. After all, he left them after only a single season at the helm. And the wrath they’ve vented in his direction has turned it into an unhealthy two-sided affair.

I can’t say specifically why Saban dislikes Tennessee, but I get that it doesn’t take much to engender the persuasion.

Since Saban is never one to be outdone, he had to up his game Saturday with all of Kiffin’s called touchdown shots.  A couple weeks ago, Saban went completely outside the guidelines of his hallowed process and praised Tennessee as the Tide’s primary rival. Further, days leading up to the game he let drop that he expected Bo Scarbrough to be a factor before the season is out.

Then on Saturday, he proceeds to emasculate theheralded rival while unveiling and unleashing a version of Bo that appears ready to run roughshod over the balance of the season.

Did we say the Tide is pretty good? Well, it’s poised to be even better.

Non-Offensive Scoring Machine

Some stats defy logic. Take for example that Alabama would still post a winning record on the season even if you only counted its non-offensive touchdowns. Granted it would be a lackluster 4-3, but there are scads of teams not performing to that standard with full use of their faculties. Imagine, at this pace the defense and special teams will be bowl eligible on their own accord.

Depth Watch No More?

A week or so ago. I stated that I’d keep this as a regular feature until the team proved me otherwise. Well, it’s possible that I’m too stubborn to be convinced of such a turnaround in only a week, but a solution presented itself in Knoxville with bells on.

More from Bama Hammer

Saban discussed it during this postgame conference but the trending was apparent during the contest. The Tide deployed what Saban later called a Nickel Rabbit package. I like to think that Saban has been listening to our podcast and since you can’t prove he hasn’t, we’ll call is a push.

Anyway, the Tide defense rotated liberal doses of outside linebackers – perhaps the single deepest position on the roster – which allowed Alabama to keep a steady run of fresh speed off the edge while allowing a fluid rotation consisting of Allen, Tomlinson, and Payne in the middle.

This is potentially a big deal as it allows the Tide to effectively leverage its depth at one position to augment a relative lack of depth at another. Even judicious use of such formations can have lasting impacts over the coming weeks.

Next: Alabama-Tennessee Postgame Notes

Check back as I continue to track these and new items as they emerge from the field.  Also be sure to check out our podcasts as I explore and debate these topics and many more in a more animated format.