Tennessee Volunteers (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1 SU, 3-4 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Saturday October 24th, 3:30PM EST
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium Tuscaloosa, A.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: TENN +15.5/ALA -15.5
Over/Under Total: 56
Last week Alabama continued their climb back towards the SEC Championship and College Football Playoffs picture with a commanding 41-23 victory over Texas A&M. The win moved the Crimson Tide to the number 8 spot in the rankings and marked their 3rd straight victory over SEC opponents. It was also the Crimson Tides 2nd victory over top 10 teams in the last two weeks and they have now outscored opponents by a combined mark of 106-47 during that stretch. This Saturday Alabama try to stay hot when the host the Tennessee Volunteers inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Volunteers had a bye week most recently meaning they have had some extra time to prepare for this weeks contest. Tennessee will enter this Saturdays showdown with Alabama fresh off the heels of one of the biggest wins in the Butch Jones era in a 38-31 upset over Georgia. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs had a career day in the outing against the Bulldogs throwing for 312 yards with 3 touchdowns and rushing for another 118 yards with two touchdowns on the ground. It was a breakout performance for the junior quarterback and it gave a big boost to Tennessees confidence on the offensive side of the football.
The Volunteers offensive momentum will need to stay alive this week against an always tough Alabama defense. Alabama has had one of the best defenses in college football annually under Nick Saban and the 2015 class is ranked 6th overall giving up just 271 yards per game. In recent weeks Alabamas defense has been dominate. The Crimson Tide held Georgia to just 10 points marking their lowest point total of the season, held Arkansas to just 14 points which was their 2nd lowest total of the season, and also held the Aggies to 23 points ironically marking their lowest total of the season. Therefore Alabamas defense is playing at an extremely impressive level right now.
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The best thing for Tennessee will be to get a good start this Saturday. When you go against a defense that is playing like Alabama, your best bet is to come out strong and bust their confidence. Otherwise, it could be a long afternoon. The Volunteers will need big plays out of their key playmakers Joshua Dobbs and running back Jalen Herd. Judging by the way Alabamas defense typically plays against the run, I would expect Tennessee to come out with some wrinkle plays on offense to try to get some momentum established early. Those first couple of drives for Tennessee are going to be critical towards their opportunity to compete on Saturday.
Of course if the Volunteers find a way to move the football, they will still have to stop the Alabama offense. Despite all the talk around LSUs Leonard Fournette for the Heisman Trophy, Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry put his name back into the hat last week with an outstanding 236 yard and two touchdown performance against the Aggies. Tennessee has not exactly been great against the run this season giving up 170 yards per game (72nd in FBS). Therefore, I would expect Alabama to put the ball in the hands of Henry often again this Saturday as they look to for another dominating victory.
However, Henry is not the only threat for Alabama on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is not scared to dial up the deep ball and try some trickery in hopes for a big play. Quarterback Jake Coker has been accurate in limited efforts behind center completing 61.9% of his passes. In the last 3 weeks, Coker has completed 72.9% of his passes despite a couple of picks. I believe Alabamas coaching staff is becoming more comfortable with his throwing ability and that will be big for this offense down the stretch when big plays are needed. A couple of big plays could be the difference in how this game unfolds on Saturday especially how it relates to the 15.5 point spread.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Alabama is playing really well and they have covered the mark in 2 of their last 3 games. Consider the fact, Alabama is also 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 games against Tennessee and I think Tide continue to roll this Saturday. No pun intended. Take Alabama -15.5
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