Devil's Advocate

Check out this season's seventh edition of InsideTennessee's Devil's Advocate series in which two staff members break down why their assigned team will win on Saturday.

We at InsideTennessee love a good debate. That's why we think you'll enjoy Devil's Advocate. Each week one staffer presents evidence why Tennessee will win/beat the spread, while another staffer offers a spirited rebuttal on behalf of the opposing team.

Here are this week's arguments:


By Randy Moore

Two years ago Tennessee gave top-ranked Alabama a scare in Tuscaloosa by utilizing an ultra-conservative game plan built around three key points:

— Load the box to stop Bama's running game

— Hope the Tide quarterback struggles

— Take no risks, then hope to make a play late and win

The strategy worked like a charm. Tennessee limited star tailback Mark Ingram to 99 rushing yards and benefited from a poor performance by Tide QB Greg McElroy, who passed for just 120 yards. The Vols chewed up the clock by running the ball 36 times, even though they gained a mere 74 net rushing yards. The low-risk offense enabled the Big Orange to trail just 12-3 entering the final four minutes. Incredibly, Eric Berry recovered a fumble to set up a 43-yard touchdown drive, then Tennessee recovered an on-sides kick to set up a potential game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. It was blocked, however, and the Vols fell 12-10.

Tennessee is a better team in 2011 than it was two years ago, so you figure maybe the Vols can give Bama another scare on Saturday's return visit to Tuscaloosa. Sorry, Big Orange fans, but it's not going to happen. The Tide is a better team in 2011 than it was two years ago, as well. Much better.

Tennessee won't limit Tide tailback Trent Richardson to 99 rushing yards ... not unless ex-Vol Dan Williams comes back from the NFL to play nose tackle this weekend. Tennessee won't eat up the clock by running the ball ... not unless ex-Vol Montario Hardesty comes back from the NFL to play tailback. And Tennessee won't force a critical turnover in the final minutes ... not unless ex-Vol Eric Berry comes back from the NFL to play safety.

The Vols are marginally better this year than they were in 2009 but the Crimson Tide is exponentially better this year than it was in '09. That's why Saturday's meeting won't come down to a last-second field-goal try. This one probably will be over by halftime.


By Danny Parker

Everybody's heard the coach speak: "You can throw out the records when these two get together."

For a half of football over the last season two seasons, Tennessee has not only held its own against some of the better teams in the country, but was in a position to win when the third quarter kicked off (up 13-10 over Oregon, down just 13-10 to Alabama, tied 7-all at LSU, down 17-7 at home against LSU).

The youth of the Volunteers has been the rallying cry as Big Orange Country shout "Just wait till next year!" with consistency. At some point, those sophomores and freshmen are going to get sick of all that and will get Derek Dooley is signature victory.

A Pro-Style offense like Tennessee's must be able to run the football to be effective, especially when its top two weapon — quarterback Tyler Bray (thumb) and wide receiver Justin Hunter (knee) — are on the shelf. Senior running back Tauren Poole netted 70 yards against a top-notch 'D' like LSU's. There was nothing cute about it, just old school between the tackles pounding of the football.

Should the Vols find a way to move Alabama's three-man front and get a guard or two to the second level with hands on the Tide linebackers, Poole & Co. will have success.

If Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson isn't on the field, he can't score. When he is, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will sell out to stop the Bama running game and put Prentiss Waggner and Izauea Lanier on islands with wide receivers. The Tide corps doesn't include Julio Jones anymore.

Like Alabama's school website says: "In rivalry games, you're only one play away from legendary." Dangle that fact in front of a roster of orange-clad football players thirsting for victory and you get a thunderstorm of upset on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.

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