According to FanDuel, Alabama Football begins ‘Tennessee Hate Week’ as an 8.5-point favorite. It could be three of the points advantage for the Crimson Tide can be attributed to the game being in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The rest of the spread could be the result of a big advantage Alabama has at the quarterback position.
Jalen Milroe and Joe Milton are similar in one way. Both are physically imposing players who are dual-threat quarterbacks. Take away negative yards from sacks and both guys are proven dangerous runners, though Milroe has more speed, Milton might have a bit more wiggle. Beyond the rushing threat from each player, the two QBs do not compare.
Joe Milton is in his sixth season of college football development, having been at Michigan for three seasons before transferring to Tennessee. Jalen Milroe has far less college playing and development experience.
In Tennessee’s last four games, Joe Milton’s passing completion percentage was 58.8%. In Alabama’s last four games, Jalen Milroe’s passing accuracy was 66.7%, including a poor passing showing against Arkansas of 47.6%. In this passing stat for the entire 2023 season, Milroe is No. 7 among SEC quarterbacks. Milton is No. 10. Nationally, Milroe is No. 37, while Milton is No. 60.
In the telling stat of Passing Efficiency Rating (PER), Jalen Milroe is No. 2 among SEC QBs and No. 9 nationally. Milton is No. 11 in the SEC and No. 68 nationally.
Another key quarterback stat is Yards Per Attempt (YPA), though it is affected significantly by the offensive schemes of teams and OC’s play-calling. Jalen Milroe’s YPA is 10.6 yards, placing him at No. 2 in the SEC and No. 3 nationally. At 6.9 yards, Milton is No. 13 in the SEC and No. 82 nationally. The significance of this stat is that Milton’s highly praised ‘big arm’ appears to not be favored by Josh Heupel.
Alabama Football Offensive Line
What greatly concerns Alabama football fans is whether the Crimson Tide offensive line (with help from tight ends and running backs) can give Jalen Milroe enough time to throw. The Crimson Tide is last among SEC teams in sacks allowed. Tennessee is far better in pass protection and just behind Georgia as the SEC’s second-best team at protecting the quarterback. Jalen Milroe’s performance, with Tennessee’s pass protection, would surpass Milton’s stats even more.
One more point to consider when comparing sacks allowed is opponent strength. Alabama Football has played four of the SEC’s top seven teams in sacks-per-game average. The Vols have played only one. It was a common opponent with Alabama; Texas A&M. The Vols allowed two fewer sacks against the Aggies; three compared to the Crimson Tide’s five against Texas A&M.
How bad is Tennessee’s quarterback situation? Writing for Saturday Down South, Connor O’Gara described Milton’s deficiencies,
"Saturday was ugly for Joe Milton. Really ugly.If Tennessee wins any big games in 2023, it won’t be because of Milton. It’ll be despite Milton."
Some Alabama football fans become frustrated with Jalen Milroe’s decision-making. Taking sacks instead of throwing passes away has been a too frequent problem. That weakness is nothing compared to Joe Milton’s mental errors. In the 4th quarter against Texas A&M, Milton threw a 16-yard pass into the end zone. The Tennessee receiver never had a chance to catch the pass because it was thrown directly to an A&M safety involved in double coverage. A six-year QB, making such a mistake is inexcusable.
Jalen Milroe outshining Joe Milton on Saturday will not be enough for a Crimson Tide win. But Milroe vs. Milton gives Alabama Football a big advantage.