Posted by Jerry Hinnen
TENNESSEE WILL WIN IF: Matt Simms finds and takes the Captain America serum sometime this week. Which is another way to say: it's very, very hard to construct a scenario in which the Volunteers emerge from Tuscaloosa with a victory. But it'll do Tennessee's cause an enormous amount of good if their beleaguered running game can take another step forward after last week's breakthrough vs. LSU. Entering that game the Vols were one of the worst rushing teams in the country -- and at 114th in rushing yardage, they still are -- but tailbacks Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane pounding for a shocking 111 yards on the Tigers (on a not-terrible 3.8 yards per-carry average) was a massive, massive improvement. If a presumably serum-less Simms is to have any chance at moving the chains against the Tide, that improvement has to be not only sustained, but built upon.
Too bad that ohbytheway, Alabama is the nation's No. 1 rushing defense, allowing 1.5 yards per-carry and 38 yards a game. Good luck, Vols!
ALABAMA WILL WIN IF: they do anything other than show up as Mirror Universe Tide and commit the flood of errors they've shown themselves all-but-incapable of committing through the season's first seven weeks. It's true that two years ago the Vols arrived in Tuscaloosa as heavy underdogs and came within one blocked field goal of ruining what proved to be a national championship season, but that Tennessee squad had an established running game behind Montario Hardesty, a strong and battle-tested front seven, and Eric Berry ... and still needed a series of late Tide mistakes just to come that close. These Vols have none of those advantages and will need much, much, much more help from the Tide than they got in 2009 to have a similar shot at victory.
THE X-FACTOR: Serums, and whether Simms can locate a helpful one in time. Or, more realistically, Tennessee's electric true freshman returner Devrin Young, who's averaged better than 20 yards on his three punt returns and has kickoff returns of 50 and 60 yards the past two weeks alone. Getting another huge special teamsp lay or two from Young would go a long, long way towards keeping the Vols in the game.