Our 2013 NCAA Football schedule continues Saturday from Tuscaloosa as #1 Alabama hosts Tennessee. We’ll have complete coverage beginning at 3 PM Eastern on our WestwoodOne affiliates coast-to-coast and streaming live right here on WestwoodOneSports.com!
To get you ready for the game, our analyst Derek Rackley, who will call the game, filed this scouting report on the Volunteers and the Crimson Tide.
In a Nutshell: The Volunteers are coming off a much-needed conference victory against South Carolina last week — their first over a ranked team in nearly four years. After Tennessee had won just five games in each of the last two seasons, first-year head coach Butch Jones has directed the 2013 squad to a winning record (4-3) through its first seven games for the first time since 2007. Tennessee has faced an extremely tough schedule to this point having already met four teams ranked 19th or better, including two of the top six in the country at the time (@ Oregon, Georgia). And it won’t get a whole lot easier for the Vols as they travel to #1 Alabama, followed by #5 Missouri in Columbia and #11 Auburn over the next three weeks.
Player I’ll Be Watching: When QB Justin Worley has played against talented defenses in hostile environments, the results haven’t been too positive. In his two games this season at Oregon and at Florida, he’s completed just 48% of his passes with two touchdowns, two interceptions and hasn’t thrown for more than 150 yards in either game. He will now be matched up against an Alabama team ranked as the top scoring defense in the country (9.7 PPG) that hasn’t allowed a point to be scored on them in five and a half quarters. Oh, and Worley will have to deal with two of the most talented defensive minds in college football with Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Did I mention this will all take place in front of 100,000+ proud Crimson Tide fans? Not an easy task to say the least…
What the Volunteers need to do to win: They will have to play the most disciplined football game of the entire season. And what I mean by “disciplined” is NO Turnovers, no silly penalties and no missed assignments, especially on offense. You just can’t expect to move the football on one of the best defenses in the country if you’re sitting in 2nd and 15 or 3rd and 12. And they will have to be extremely opportunistic. They’ll need to make all the tough catches in tight coverage on offense, come up with the difficult interception on defense and quite literally might need the ball to bounce their way. Tennessee is just not talented enough yet to line up toe-to-toe with Alabama and beat them.
In a Nutshell: It’s amazing to me that after two somewhat ugly performances to start the season (per Alabama standards!), once again we are looking at an Alabama team sitting at #1 in the country. Virginia Tech held the Crimson Tide to 2.5 rushing yards per carry in the opener then Johnny Manziel and company threw up 42 points on the Alabama defense on September 14th – two things that you rarely see from a Nick Saban-coached team. But since the A&M game, Alabama has hit their stride and looked as dominant as they have the past two years bringing national championship trophies back to Tuscaloosa. Since giving up 42 points to the Aggies, Alabama has allowed a TOTAL of 16 points in the previous five games and have shut out two SEC teams (Ole Miss & Arkansas). Offensively, they’ve out-gained their opponents by 1,364 yards over the past five contests and QB AJ McCarron is completing 74% of his passes during that span.
Player I’ll Be Watching: No offense to TJ Yeldon but I’m looking forward to seeing running back Kenyan Drake up close and personal. When I watch him on tape, his burst is the first thing I notice. He has a quickness and ‘shake’ to him that very few running backs have in college football. And when he sees a crease, he explodes through the hole. He’s been over 100 yards rushing in each of the past two games and was one yard shy of that mark against Ole Miss – and he’s yet to carry the ball more than 14 times in a game this season! Alabama has won championships by consistently having depth at the running back position and that element is there once again with Yeldon and Drake.
What the Crimson Tide needs to do to win: Same formula that’s been there ever since Nick Saban arrived. Pound the ball on offense with their running game, allow AJ McCarron to ‘air it out’ to the best receiving group we’ve seen at Alabama in quite some time, and continue to play suffocating defense. And I mentioned ‘discipline’ earlier for Tennessee, how about this discipline from Alabama last week against Arkansas: they did not allow a sack, committed zero turnovers on offense and special teams and didn’t commit a penalty. That is not only the recipe to winning games, but also BCS National Championships!
– Derek Rackley