The Tennessee Volunteers (2-2) have had to do some soul searching this week after their 34-7 defeat at the hands of Kentucky – their first loss to the Wildcats in Knoxville in 18 games. Next up is the little matter of the No. 2 team in the country, as the Vols welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) Neyland Stadium. Here are the three keys to a Tennessee victory.
By Steve Wright
Attack the ‘Bama defense
The Alabama offense is going to get its licks here. The passing game behind Mac Jones and his amazing wide receiver corps routinely goes for over 400 yards, while the running game spearheaded by Najee Harris is running through holes big enough to back a semi through. Scoring isn’t a problem for Alabama, but stopping people has been more difficult. The pass defense has allowed over 250 yards in every game this year and they can’t seem to stop anyone on third down. The Vols running game will have to be better than it was against both Georgia and Kentucky – can it be much worse? – but there is hope here that they can move the ball and score.
Get to the QB
About the only knock on the Crimson Tide offense this season has been some issues with protecting the quarterback. Georgia had three sacks last weekend and the line has given up seven on the season. There have also been five hurries in the past two games. Tennessee started the season with a four sack performance against South Carolina – with 2.5 of those coming from Deandre Johnson. The Vols have eight sacks on the season and bothering Jones at QB may lead to some turnover chances.
Win the turnover battle
This means that whoever is playing QB can’t keep giving the ball away and that the defense will have to step up and make some game-changing – and field position altering – plays against Alabama. Alabama is better than Tennessee in 2020 in just about every metric, so the Vols will not win a slugfest or a shootout. What they could win, however, is a game that is dirtied up with turnovers, penalties, and special teams wins for Tennessee. Smoke and mirrors is a viable tactic here, playing safe on offense and being opportunistic on defense.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 2:30 PM CT (3:30 PM ET). Watch on the CBS Network.