Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tennessee-Alabama Preview and Prediction


Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday October 24 CBS 3:30 PM
Line: Alab -14

What used to be the biggest rivalry in the SEC played on the third Saturday in October has fallen off the radar a little bit the last few years and will be played on the fourth Saturday in 2009. The Tennessee Vols are coming off a bye week where they smoked Georgia 45-19 the week before to get to 3-3. Alabama just keeps rolling with a victory over South Carolina last week to move to 7-0.

Vegas has installed the Tide as a 14 point favorite but that has moved down from an opening of 16.5. Lets take a look at three questions for each team that will help us pick a winner.

Three Questions For Tennessee

1. Letting Loose

Urban Meyer was right. Tennessee played very tight to the vest against Florida hoping to keep it close and look for a late turnover that could win it. UT was running the ball down two scores with under five minutes left. UT opened up the offense a lot more in their last SEC game blowing out UGA. Do the Vols open the playbook and go for the win or do they play conservative, try to stay in the game, and hope for a turnover late?

2. Crompton - Helpful or Hurtful

On the season, Tennessee starting QB Jonathan Crompton has respectable stats with 1210 yards and 13 touchdowns. But those stats are padded by games against Western Kentucky and Ohio. At times Crompton has been unbearable (UCLA). Last time out against UGA he completed 20 of 27 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Can he have a similar performance against Alabama? I think he needs to for UT to pull off the upset.

3. Put the Brakes on Ingram

Alabama ranks ninth in the nation in rushing yards per game led by Heisman Candidate Mark Ingram. Last game against South Carolina, the sophomore ran for 246 yards on just 24 carries. Tennessee has a pretty good defense but it has been better against the pass (9th) than the run (32nd). Can Monte Kiffin get enough guys in the box to hold Ingram to under a 100 yards?


Three Questions For Alabama

1. Greg McElroy Better Play Better

After starting the season hot, the first year starter as cooled off considerably. Last week, McElroy threw for just 92 yards on 10 completions with two picks. He has good receivers in Julio Jones and Marquis Maze but has not been able to find them down field much of late. McElroy has to get in some kind of rhythm so that UT cannot just stack the box on Saturday.

2. Red Zone Woes

The Tide is having success in the red zone scoring on 86% of their attempts. But only half of their 31 conversions are for touchdowns. Conversely, Tennessee has allowed just 20 red zone trips and given up two touchdowns inside their 20.

3. Dominant Rush Defense

Alabama ranks third in the nation in rush defense giving up just 63 ypg on the ground. I know Tennessee wants to establish the run and get Crompton settled in with play action pass. If the Tide defense can stop the Vols running game then they can tee off on the passing game. If that is the case then watch out because this could turn into a blowout.

Prediction

I normally like teams coming out of bye week who played well going into it. Tennessee's offense has really picked up the last three games averaging 427 ypg, nearly 30 more than their season average. But the Vols defense is not nearly as dominating as it was early on giving up 347 per game over their last three.

The Tide defense just seems to get better and better each week and I think they really hamper this Tennessee offense and make them win through the air. A 2.5 point move in the line tells me a lot of money is getting put on UT. I am going to pick the other way and take Alabama.

Alabama 27 Tennessee 10
Alabama Covers -14


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