Vols Prepare to Tackle Fourth Ranked Alabama
(utsports.com) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Tennessee heads to Alabama to take on the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Vols, coming off a narrow loss to No. 13 Ole Miss last weekend, will look to get back in the win column and end a 14-game skid against their longtime rival.
Saturday’s game will be televised in prime time on ESPN with Jason Benetti (PxP), Greg McElroy (analyst) and Katie George (sideline) on the call. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT.
The game can also be accessed through the ESPN App on smartphones, tablets, connected streaming devices or via espn.com/watch.
Fans can listen to Tennessee’s official radio broadcast on the Vol Network (WIVK-FM 107.7/WNML-FM 99.1) and satellite radio (Sirius Ch. 108, XM Ch. 192, Internet Ch. 963). A live audio stream of the broadcast will also be available on UTSports.com and the Official Gameday App.
Bob Kesling (PxP), Pat Ryan (analyst) and Brent Hubbs (analyst) will call the action, with Kasey Funderburg handling sideline duties. Big Orange Countdown begins at 5:30 p.m. ET.
NEED TO KNOW
Creating Negative Plays
Tennessee has racked up 62.0 tackles for loss through seven games under new defensive coordinator Tim Banks. That tally leads the SEC, leads all Power Five teams and ranks second in the FBS behind Troy’s 66.0. A total of 23 different players have at least 0.5 TFL so far, including 15 with multiple TFLs.
Redshirt junior linebacker Jeremy Banks leads the way with 9.0 for a loss of 37 yards. Banks is second overall in the SEC in that category and 11th in the FBS. Defensive back Theo Jackson ranks second on the squad with 6.5, which is tied for 16th in the SEC and tops among SEC defensive backs. The Vols have produced four games this season with double-digit tackles for loss, including 10 apiece in their last two games (vs. South Carolina, Ole Miss).
Wide Receivers Producing
UT’s wide receivers are playing with confidence entering the Alabama game. The Vols already have three receivers with over 200 yards on the year. Graduate transfer JaVonta Payton, who came from Mississippi State, has caught a touchdown pass in four out of his last five games. He was the first Vol with a four-game TD catch streak since Josh Malone had five straight such games in 2016. Payton leads the Vols and ranks ninth in the SEC in touchdown catches with four.
At least 16 Tennessee players have at least one reception this season with 11 players having multiple catches. A total of seven players have caught a touchdown pass this year. Jalin Hyatt became the latest to join the party, hauling in a 3-yard pass to open the scoring against South Carolina on Oct. 9. Four players have multiple TD catches on the year.
Winning the Turnover Battle
After struggling to create turnovers in the first two games of the season, the Vols have been one of the SEC’s best in the turnover department over their last five games, creating 10 takeaways (eight INTs, two fumbles). UT has committed just two turnovers in that span for a plus-eight margin. .
Big Play Vols
Tennessee has already hit on eight offensive plays of 40 or more yards from scrimmage this season, which ranks sixth in the SEC. By comparison, the Vols had only three the entire 2020 season (10 games). The Vols have produced 18 offensive plays of 30 or more yards, eclipsing its entire 2020 season total already (14 in 10 games). UT ranks third in the SEC in that category, trailing only Missouri (24) and Florida (21). In conference-only games, the Vols have connected on 12 30 or more-yard plays, which is tied with Florida for the SEC lead.
This is the SEC
The Vols are in the thick of a challenging four-game stretch against all ranked opponents. UT dropped a close game to then No. 13 Ole Miss last Saturday and now travels to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 4 Alabama. Following an open date next week, the Big Orange hit the road once again to take on No. 15 Kentucky before capping the brutal stretch with a home showdown versus top-ranked Georgia.
Crimson Tide lead series, 58-38-7
Tennessee and Alabama are meeting for the 104th time with the Crimson Tide holding a 58-38-7 all-time record. The Tide has won 14 in a row in the series, and the Vols are seeking their first win over Alabama since a 16-13 victory on Oct. 21, 2006, in Knoxville. UT’s last win in Tuscaloosa occurred in 2003 (51-43 in 5OT).
Alabama is led by Nick Saban, who is in his 15th season with the Crimson Tide and has led the program to six national championships, the most recent coming last year.
Alabama enters Saturday’s contest with one of the nation’s top offenses, leading the SEC and ranking fourth nationally in scoring (45.0 ppg) while also ranking 12th in the FBS in total offense (482.6 ypg). The Tide are led by sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who ranks second in the conference in passing yards, averaging 297.4 per game. Talented wideouts John Metchie and Jameson Williams have been Young’s favorite targets, accounting for 1,067 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches. Redshirt senior Brian Robinson Jr. leads the Alabama rushing attack, ranking fourth in the SEC with 599 rushing yards to go along with eight touchdowns on the ground.
Defensively, Tennessee transfer linebacker Henry To’o To’o leads the team with 54 total tackles while sophomore linebacker Will Anderson Jr. leads the FBS with 15.0 tackles for loss and is tied for fifth nationally with seven sacks. Alabama’s defense has picked off 10 passes and recovered two fumbles this season.