Before we begin, it should be noted that teams have to actually play the game to determine a victor. As much as people, such as myself, like to try to declare a winner before either team even steps on the field, that’s not how things work.
In other words, TINSTAAGV — there is no such thing as a guaranteed victory.
With that being said, it’s been an awfully long time since the Tennessee Volunteers managed to take down their rival from the West — 4,016 days to be exact.
Alabama’s 10-year run of dominance against the Vols under Nick Saban has been impressive, and it is likely to continue.
As a matter of fact, here are 10 reasons Tennessee doesn’t have a shot Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
1. Vols’ true freshman QB is making only his second start
There’s no doubt that Jarrett Guarantano has the chance to be a legitimate quarterback for Tennessee, but Saturday won’t give him much of an opportunity to show it.
Guarantano will be making only the second start, and he’ll be doing it on the road versus the No. 4 defense in the country.
His legs could cause the Alabama defense some issues, but the Tide has never been beaten by a true freshman quarterback in the Saban era.
2. The game is in Tuscaloosa
It’ll already be hard enough for Guarantano and the rest of the Tennessee offense to get anything going against Alabama’s defense, but having to do it in a hostile environment makes it that much more difficult.
Kellen Mond was able to muster up some magical moments in Week 6, but he did it with the help of a stingy defense and the 12th Man at his back — neither of which will be the case for the Vols.
3. Tide’s rushing offense vs. Vols’ rushing defense
Alabama has the conference’s top-ranked rushing offense — averaging 302.6 yards.
On the other hand, Tennessee has the conference’s worst rushing defense — giving up 242.8 yards per game.
The Tide absolutely destroyed the Vols’ run defense last season, putting up 409 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. At this point, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Alabama outdo last season’s totals.
4. Damien Harris will continue his Heisman campaign
Damien Harris has been a terror for opposing run defenses this season.
He leads the SEC in yards per carry (9.19), is third in rushing yards (625) and has the second-most touchdowns (9), trailing only Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson (13).
Harris has done all this despite not even being in the top 20 in carries per game — he’s seeing only 9.71 per game.
His momentum has been building slowly since SEC play started, and Saturday gives him the perfect chance to continue to show why he should be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate.
5. Alabama isn’t letting up against weaker SEC teams
It’s been a long time since any SEC team has gone on a run like Alabama has against conference opponents this season.
In their four SEC games so far, the Tide has outscored opponents 193-31, an average victory of 48-8. The two home games (Ole Miss and Arkansas) have averaged a final score of 54-6.
It just seems like Alabama is on a mission this season.
6. Tennessee has no continuity on its offensive line
Going against a defensive front like Alabama’s, an opponent really should have a settled offensive line. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Tennessee.
For the fifth time this season, the Vols will be shuffling things up on their offensive line for Saturday’s game. It makes sense, considering they surrendered seven sacks against South Carolina in Week 7, but there is no reason to believe the shakeup will help Tennessee in any way.
7. Nick Saban vs. Butch Jones
This will be the fifth time that Jones has gone head-to-head against Saban, and so far, he’s 0-4 with Saban averaging a 23.3-point margin of victory.
The silver lining is that Tennessee has at least managed to keep it close in two of those matches — a 19-14 loss in 2015 and a 34-20 loss in 2014 that saw them outscore Alabama 13-7 in the second half.
8. RB John Kelly should be a non-factor
The Tennessee offense does have some bright spots — including WR Marquez Callaway and OG Trey Smith — but none are brighter than RB John Kelly.
The junior from Detroit, Mich., is currently No. 2 in the SEC in rushing yards per game (92) — only trailing Georgia’s Nick Chubb (98.3).
The bad new is that running backs don’t typically have a lot of success against Alabama’s defense. Saban, being a Bill Belichick disciple, normally does a good job of taking an offense’s main weapon out of the equation — as long as it isn’t a quarterback.
9. Another opportunity for a statement game from Alabama
With four teams in the top 10 losing last week — including Auburn — one would think that the Tide would see some breathing room, but this is Alabama, after all.
Typically, there would be a lot of people who believed that a victory against the Vols wouldn’t be overly impressive, but Alabama has managed to curb that a little bit this season by annihilating its opponents.
With it being a rivalry game and no one giving Tennessee a chance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Alabama come out flat.
If they don’t, that will speak volumes for the team. Saturday gives them a chance to show a continued, unwavering focus on the goal at hand — continuing another run at a national title.
10. Some of Alabama’s players have already lit up the victory cigars
It’s almost a certainty at this point that sophomore LB Mack Wilson is going to be hearing from Saban.
On Wednesday, Wilson sent a tweet out saying “We lighting it up this weekend.” For anyone who knows the tradition, Alabama players, coaches and fans have historically lit up victory cigars following a win over Tennessee — the tradition started in 1961.
A week after getting chewed out for a personal foul penalty, Wilson will be looking to avoid being at the receiving end of whatever comes from Saban should Alabama lose.
Source: Saturday Down South