Alabama is in the most brutal section of its Southeastern Conference schedule with its fourth consecutive SEC game and eighth straight game to start the season, and another very difficult conference game following next week’s open date.
One thing that makes Alabama’s schedule so difficult is the number of opponents that have open dates or relatively easy games before playing the Crimson Tide. This is not a new issue, but rather one that has been going on for many years. To Bama Coach Nick Saban’s credit, he has been very good in these games over the years. He has also pointed out that when his team is playing well, an open date might break momentum.
This week for Alabama is Tennessee, which like Texas A&M last week and LSU which will be Bama’s next game after the Vols, is coming off a bye week.
Alabama and Tennessee will kick off in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game. Bama is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC games, while the Vols are 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the conference. Although Tennessee’s record is not what might have been expected considering early in the year the Vols were ranked in the top 25 in the nation, UT has played well with an overtime loss to Oklahoma, a one-point loss at Florida, and a four-point loss to Arkansas.
Alabama is ranked eighth in the nation.
The Crimson Tide has a streak of 57 consecutive wins over unranked teams, the longest streak in the nation. Since 1939, the highest-ranked team in the Alabama-Tennessee game has a record of 51-9-2.
Alabama has won eight straight games in the series, which has its 98th meeting Saturday. The Tide has a record of 52-37-8 against the Vols.
Tennessee has a slight advantage in scoring offense, ranking third in the SEC with 37.2 points per game. Alabama is fifth in the league, 35.6 ppg. On defense, Bama is second in the conference, allowing 16.7 ppg, while UT is tied for 12th, giving up 25.7.
On the ground, Tennessee is second in the league in rushing, 222 yards per game and Alabama is fourth at 198.7. In rushing defense, Bama is first, giving up 70.9, and the Vols are 11th, allowing 170.5.
In passing offense, the Tide is eighth in the league with 231.4 yards per game, UT 10th at 212.7. In pass defense, Bama is fifth, allowing 201, the Vols 13th, giving up 248.5. Alabama leads the league in interceptions with 12 and ranks first in pass defense efficiency (Tennessee is 13th), with the Vols eighth and Bama ninth in passing efficiency.
In total offense, Tennessee is fourth, 434.7 yards per game, Alabama sixth at 430.1. Defensively, the Tide is first, giving up 271.9 yards per game, Tennessee 13th, giving up 419.
The Vols have the advantage over Bama in all kicking statistics.
The Big Three in statistical comparisons insofar as coaches are concerned are third down performance, turnover margin, and red zone (insde the 20) efficiency, and Tennessee has been better than Alabama in all three areas.
Although Alabama is second in the league in first downs and first in defense against first downs, Tennessee has the advantage in third down performance. The Vols are sixth in third down conversions, 42-98 for 42.9 per cent, the Tide dead last at 33-101 for 32.7 per cent. On defense, UT has allowed 27-94 for 28.7 per cent, third in the league, and Bama is fifth in the conference allowing 34-118 for 28.8 per cent.
While not an official SEC statistic, Alabama has recorded 36 three-and-outs in the past four games to move the Crimson Tide into first place nationally at 6.86 per game. The Tide has forced a three-and-out on 48 of 109 opponent possessions (44 per cent), including 36-65 in the last four games (55.4 per cent).
Alabama has been climbing up the charts on turnover margin, but still trails Tennessee. The Vols are third in the league at plus three in six games with the Tide fourth, also at plus three, but in seven games. UT has eight takeaways (four fumble recoveries and four interceptions) and five turnovers (three fumble recoveries, two interceptions). Bama, which had five turnovers in one game (Ole Miss), has a league-best 16 takeaways (four fumble recoveries, 12 interceptions) and 13 turnovers (five lost fumbles, eight interceptions).
Tennessee is also best in the red zone. On offense, the Vols are tied for fourth with 28 scores in 32 trips (20 touchdowns, 8-10 field goals), while Bama is seventh in the SEC with 26-30 (19 TDs, 7-9 FGs). On defense, the UT is third, allowing 17-22 scores (11 TDs, 6-8 FGs) and Bama is 13th, 13-15 (7 TDs, 6-7 FGs).
Tennessee is the SEC’s least penalized team, 35.7 yards per game, Alabama 13th, 60.4.
In time of possession, Alabama is second in the league, 33:01, Tennessee sixth, 30:47.