The “Third Saturday in October,” Tennessee’s annual game against their biggest rival and foe Alabama, is actually on the third Saturday in October this year. This rivalry game is filled with tradition and history. Legends like General Robert Neyland and Peyton Manning, as well as Bear Bryant and Joe Namath have forged their legacies in the Tennessee vs. Alabama game. Each state hates each other and even Alabama players said they look forward to the Tennessee game more than any other. Tennessee players think likewise.
Tennessee came within five points of the Crimson Tide last year, with a final score of 19-14 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is coming off a win last week against SEC West opponent Arkansas. Neyland Stadium is already sold out for the afternoon clash this Saturday. Alabama is coached by Nick Saban who is in his 10th year with Alabama. His offensive coordinator is Lane Kiffin, a name that Vol fans are all too familiar with. After losing their defensive coordinator Kirby Smart in the offseason, who left to take the coaching job at Georgia, Saban promoted secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt to defensive coordinator. The Tide also had problems with figuring out who their starting quarterback was going to be. Last year they were led by quarterback Jake Coker, who they replaced with dual-threat freshman Jalen Hurts. The other losses on the offense that Alabama Coach Nick Saban worked to cope with include RB Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, offensive linemen Ryan Kelly and Dominick Jackson, as well as tight end Michael Nysewander and wide receiver Richard Mullaney. The losses on the defensive side of the ball consisted of linebackers Reggie Ragland, Denzel Devall, Dillion Lee, and D.J. Pettway, defensive end A’Shawn Robinson, cornerback Cyrus Jones, DL Jarran Reed and safety Geno Matias-Smith. Well enough about who they lost in the offseason, who are the players to watch for in Tennessee’s game against Alabama? On the offense look out for wide receiver Calvin Ridley and TE O.J. Howard. Damien Harris has contributed nicely for Alabama, leading the team in rushing. New running back Bo Scarbrough could also make and impact as well.
On the defense, Vol fans should keep an eye on strong safety Eddie Jackson, who defends the pass well. Tim Williams will also be a threat for the Bama defense as he picked up a fumble for a touchdown against Arkansas. Minkah Fitzpatrick is also a weapon for the Tide defense, he recorded 3 interceptions against Arkansas.
Tennessee will be fortunate to have running back Jalen Hurd back from injury after he sat out against Texas A&M, the Vols could also have outstanding linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. back to shore up the defense. The Vols should use running back Alvin Kamara more as well, after his outstanding performance last week.
Alabama is used to winning often, but with the drain of talent during the offseason, coupled with Tennessee getting a pair of their star players back from injury suggests Tennessee will have what it takes to finally beat their biggest rival in front of a hostile Neyland Stadium crowd.
The game will be broadcast on CBS at 3:30 P.M. EST