One of the many downsides of the Southeastern Conference having expanded to 14 teams is that the common opponent comparison of upcoming opponents often doesn’t come until very late in the season; never mind that such a comparison has its faults. But going into the seventh week of the season, Alabama (6-0) and Tennessee (5-1) have played not a single common foe.
On the Third Saturday in October in Knoxville, No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 9 Tennessee. Kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central time) with CBS televising the game.
That the Crimson Tide and Volunteers have played no common opponents may also affect a statistical comparison, but six games in makes it somewhat more germaine since both Bama and the Vols have played good competition.
Alabama is leading the SEC in scoring at 44.8 points per game, while Tennessee is averaging 33.8 ppg, sixth in the league. The Tide is third in scoring defense, allowing 15.8 ppg, and the Vols are 10th, giving up 26.7 ppg.
Run and stop the run, is a mantra of coaches. Bama is tied for third in rushing offense at 237 yards per game and first in rushing defense, allowing 69.2. UT is averaging 192.5 rushing yards per game, seventh in the league, and giving up 183, ranking 10th.
Alabama is fifth in the conference in passing at 252.8 yards per game, but the Tide has been torched by good quarterbacks and is eighth in pass defense, giving up 223.3. Tennessee is seventh in passing offense, 239.5 ypg, but fourth in pass defense, giving up 215.3. In passing efficiency , Bama is third on offense and ninth on defense, UT sixth offensively, 10th defensively.
The Tide is fourth in total offense, 489.8 ypg, and second in total defense, allowing 292.5, and the Vols are seventh in offense, 432, and 10th in defense, 398.3.
There are three areas that coaches consider very important to success. They are: Third down efficiency, turnover margin, and Red Zone (inside the 20) performance.
In third down success, Alabama ranks second on offense, having converted 41 of 84 opportunities for 48.8 per cent and the Tide is fourth on defense, giving up 30-95 for 31.6 per cent. Tennessee is seventh on third down conversions with 39-92 for 42.4 per cent and fifth on defense, allowing 31-92 for 33.7 per cent.
Bama is tied for third in the SEC in turnover margin with plus 5 based on 13 takeaways (7 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions) and 8 turnovers (6 fumbles lost, 2 passes intercepted). UT is 13th in the category at minus 3 with 13 takeaways (8 fumble recoveries, 5 interceptions) and 16 turnovers (8 fumbles, 8 passes intercepted).
In the Red Zone, the Tide is second on offense with 25 scores (19 touchdowns and 6-7 field goals) in 27 trips for 92.6 per cent. The Vols are fourth with 23-26 for 88.5 per cent on 19 TDs and 5-5 field goals. On defense, Alabama is seventh with opponents 10-13 for 76.9 per cent (4 TDs, 6-6 FGs) and Tennessee is 13th allowing 21-23 for 91.3 per cent based on 15 touchdowns and 6-7 field goals.
There are also areas that coaches disregard as necessarily important to winning and losing, though sometimes sacks (and prevention of sacks) and time of possession can play a factor.
Alabama leads the SEC in sacks with 23 (for 187 yards in losses) and Bama is tied for fifth in sacks against, having allowed 10 for 65 yards in losses. Tennessee is tied for 11th in sacks with 9 for 51 yards and is 10th in sacks allowed with 14 for 114 yards.
The Tide is fifth in time of possession at 31:20, the Vols ninth at 28:34.
Both teams have solid kicking games. Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara leads the league in punt returns, although Alabama as a team is best in that category (14 retiurns for 248 yards) and the Vols are ninth (22-156). The Vols are fourth in the league in kickoff returns (16-386) and the Tide eighth (14-289). Bama is fourth in punting (JK Scott 22 punts for a 46.5 average/41.5 net), UT sixth (35 punts, 42.5, net 39.5). Tennessee is fourth and Alabama ninth in kickoff coverage, but the difference is about 4 feet per.