KEYS TO THE GAME:
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (3-3, 0-3 SEC)
For Tennessee, it is virtually the exact same game plan on defense as last week against LSU. The Vols are going to commit to stopping the run and Trent Richardson. The problem is, Richardson is more deadly and Spencer Ware of LSU.
Tennessee is going to have to play extremely well with their defensive front in order to keep this game under control. Once again, the Vols corners will be on an island and have to play well to keep the Vols in this one.
On offense, somehow Tennessee is going to have to score some points. The running game will need to show up like last week in order to keep pressure off Matt Simms in the passing game. Mychal Rivera could be key to Tennessee's success on offense.
All in all, this game is going to be nearly impossible for Tennessee to win with any mistakes. They could play flawless football and still lose, but any mistakes and it is a guaranteed loss.
NO. 2 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (7-0, 3-0 SEC)
For Alabama, the game plan is simple. Keep doing what you always do. Play physical, run the football, get after the quarterback, create turnovers and generally dominate your opponent.
With the Vols committing to stopping the run A.J. McCarron will have to make a few throws along the way and make sure they all go to players in red.
On defense, the Tide will need to shut down the Vols running game and get after quarterback Matt Simms in order to force some turnovers.
Overall, Alabama just has to play their game and this one is in the bag.
— Tennessee is 37-48-8 all time versus Alabama, including wins in nine of the last 15 games in the series since 1995.
— The Vols will attempt to reverse a recent trend in which they have scored 17 or fewer points in the last seven games with Alabama.
— Alabama is tied for third nationally with four drives of 90 yards or longer.
— Alabama has outscored its opponents 59 to 8 in the fourth quarter of games during the 2011 season.
— Alabama is has only fallen one time in their last 25 games in Bryant-Denny Stadium, dating back to the start of the 2008 season.
Matt Simms — 11-28, 192 yds., 0 TD/2 INT
Tauren Poole — 97 att., 395 yds., 2 TD
Da'Rick Rogers — 35 catches, 576 yds., 6 TD
Mychal Rivera — 19 catches, 248 yds., 1 TD
A.J. McCarron - 117-174, 1380 yds., 9 TD/2 INT
Trent Richardson - 132 att., 912 yds., 15 TD
Marquis Maze - 34 catches, 376 yds., 1 TD
Trent Richardson - 15 catches, 179 yds., 1 TD
WHAT A WIN MEANS:
For Tennessee, a win would be monumental for Derek Dooley and the Vols program. Beating the No. 2 team in the nation would be a huge step for a roster full of young players who are drooling for a win. The Vols likely don't have the depth to go the distance with a team like the Tide, but if they were able to it would go a long way showing the college football world that they are on their way back.
For Alabama, a win is exactly what is expected from the Tide. A loss is what would be more important. There is no reason why the Tide should even struggle with Tennessee. That is just reality. Sure it's a rivalry, but Alabama is far more talented and just needs to get out of its own way in this one.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Matt Simms (senior, quarterback)
Once again this week Matt Simms is under the gun. Alabama is probably the best defense in the entire country. LSU was a good warmup, but Simms will need to perform exponentially better for Tennessee to have a chance to upset Alabama.
The Tide a likely to give Simms a lot of confusing and complex looks and he will have to be on his A game, both mentally and physically. He is definitely going to have to make some crucial throws to keep the chains moving and keep the Vols defense off the field.
Alex Bullard (redshirt sophomore, center)
Bullard is being thrown into the fire this week making his first start at center for the Vols in Tuscaloosa after shotgun snap issue forced James Stone to guard.
Not only will Bullard have to help Matt Simms see the defense, but he MUST get the ball back to him in the shotgun formation. It is going to be an extremely difficult task for a first-timer.
Matt Darr (redshirt freshman, punter)
That is right people, the Volunteers punter is a player to watch. Darr has come on in recent weeks constantly improving his punting, but he will be crucial this week.
Lets be honest, the Volunteers are going to have to punt the ball A LOT! And Darr needs to bring his A game so Derek Dooley can play field position football if the Vols are able to hold of Trent Richardson and the Alabama offense.
Trent Richardson (junior, running back)
Richardson is one of the most dangerous players in college football. He runs downhill, he runs with power, he runs with speed, he runs with a purpose and he is very tough to bring down.
If Richardson can continue to gain three yards even when he is hit in the backfield then it could be a very long day for Tennessee. Richardson is an NFL back stuck in the NCAA. Look out folks.
Marquis Maze (senior, wide receiver)
Maze is the speedster that the Volunteers dread when they sell out to stop the run. The last two weeks Tennessee has paid when they put their corners on an island and Maze has the speed to do the same.
Not only is he a threat at receiver, but he also poses a threat at returner. The Volunteers can't afford to give up a big play in the special teams and Maze has that ability.
Dre Kirkpatrick (junior, cornerback)
Kirkpatrick will likely draw the task of taking away the Vols best receiver, Da' Rick Rogers. If he is able to frustrate Rogers early it could be huge for Alabama.
Without Justin Hunter, Rogers has been the only viable target for the Volunteers passing game at wide receiver. If Kirkpatrick can take him away then the Tide will run away with this game.