The fans at Neyland Stadium will be treated to a game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers when they take their seats on Saturday.
Alabama at Tennessee
175 ALABAMA 10.5 58.5
176 TENNESSEE 13 57
When: 3:30 PM ET, Saturday, October 15, 2016
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE: Alabama -13
PREDICTION: Alabama 30, Tennessee 17
Oddsmakers currently have the Crimson Tide listed as 9-point favorites versus the Volunteers, while the game’s total is sitting at 58½.
Tennessee’s ability to conjure up comebacks caught the attention of Alabama coach Nick Saban.
With the No. 1 Crimson Tide and No. 9 Volunteers meeting at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday (CBS) at Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium, Saban this week emphasized to his players the need to play a full 60 minutes.
“We can’t relax in games, we can’t have lapses in the game,” Saban said. “We always talk about ‘no scoreboard, keep playing.’ When you relax, you let the momentum of the game change, and that’s hard to get back.
“And the way people score points now, there have been numerous games where people were ahead by 21 points and end up losing the game. I think for everybody on the team to understand that, whether you play on special teams, offense or defense, is really important.”
The Vols (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) scored three touchdowns over the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter last week to send their game at Texas A&M into overtime. Tennessee’s seventh turnover of the game in the second overtime session resulted in a 45-38 loss.
Earlier this season, the Volunteers came from 17-7 down at Georgia to win 34-31 on a Hail Mary as time ran out, overcame a 21-0 second-quarter deficit to beat Florida 38-28, erased a 14-0 deficit to top Virginia Tech 45-24, and overcame a 13-3 halftime deficit against Appalachian State to win 20-13 in overtime by recovering a fumble in the end zone.
This game is one of the great rivalries in the South.
Though in different divisions of the SEC — Alabama in the West, Tennessee in the East — they play each other every year, and the Tide (6-0, 3-0) has won the last nine meetings.
“This game is a really big rivalry game and a special one for a lot of people in our state, our supporters and our fans,” Saban said. “It’s obviously a big game for our players as well, and it’s very challenging to play this game on the road as it always is because there’s always a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
“Tennessee, I think, has an outstanding team.”
But one that is now in a precarious position in its division race.
The loss to the Aggies did more than just take something out of the aura of invincibility that the Vols created with their comebacks.
It also pinned them with their first conference defeat. With Florida also sitting at one loss and its game with LSU in jeopardy following a postponement, a second conference loss could put the Vols behind the Gators in the final standings and knock them out of the conference title game.
Turnovers were a huge factor in the loss to the Aggies. The Vols lost five fumbles and quarterback Joshua Dobbs was intercepted twice. Probably more than anything else, that is what irked Tennessee coach Butch Jones.
“I have been very outspoken about it,” Jones said, “and everyone in our program understands that you can’t turn the football over.”
Other than that, Dobbs played a superb game, completing 28 of 47 passes for 398 yards and a touchdown and rushing for a net 57 yards despite losing 29 yards on four sacks.
With running back Jalen Hurd out due to a “lower extremity” injury, Alvin Kamara picked up the slack with 127 yards rushing. Hurd is expected back for the Alabama game.
Two players who definitely won’t be available for Tennessee are defensive tackle Danny O’Brien and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. O’Brien sustained a head injury in the loss to Texas A&M, and he subsequently was dismissed from the team for a rules violation.
Reeves-Maybin also is out with a shoulder injury that could require surgery.
“He is still looking at different options for what he wants to pursue,” Jones said regarding a possible operation. “He has all the time he needs to make that decision. I think he has earned that right.”
That is not good with the Vols facing a Tide offense featuring freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is averaging more than 256 yards a game in total offense, and sophomore running back Damien Harris, who has three 100-yard rushing games this season.
“I think this is the best Alabama team we have faced since we have been here,” Jones said. “Not to take anything away from other teams. They have all been very talented.”
Team record: 6-0 SU,4-2 ATS
Current Streak: won 6 straight games.
Alabama is 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games
Alabama is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Alabama is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games on the road
Team record: 5-1 SU,3-3 ATS
Tennessee is 6-3 ATS in its last 9 games
Tennessee is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Tennessee’s last 5 games