Ever since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 2007, the traditional rivalry between Tennessee vs. Alabama has morphed into nothing more than a regular late-October celebration for the Crimson Tide. Saban, who has won 14 consecutive games against the Volunteers, has defeated five Tennessee coaches and can add a sixth to his list Saturday when his team plays host to the Vols at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Tennessee is 4-3 and improving under first-year coach Josh Heupel, but the Volunteers are entering the gauntlet portion of their schedule with games against No. 15 Kentucky and No. 1 Georgia looming in the weeks ahead.
Following a stunning loss to Texas A&M, No. 4 Alabama got back on track last week with a dominant 49-9 win at Mississippi State. Tennessee, on the other hand, lost a 31-26 battle with Ole Miss that could leave the Volunteers drained entering the toughest test of their 2021 schedule to date. The Crimson Tide have won the last five meetings in this series by an average of 33.4 points, and from a talent perspective, they are certainly capable of keeping that pace this season.
With Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young emerging as a factor in the Heisman Trophy race, and the Alabama defense riding high after a dominant outing, this has the makings of another beatdown. But the Volunteers have proven more competitive than may expected them to be this season, and Heupel's offense has made big strides in recent weeks.
Alabama vs. Tennessee: Need to know
Will Anderson's stardom: Only four FBS teams have allowed more sacks than Tennessee, which has seen its quarterbacks taken down in the backfield 25 times this season. That's a bad omen for the Volunteers as they face an Alabama defense that feasted on Mississippi State's offensive line last week. The Crimson Tide sacked Bulldogs' quarterback Will Rogers seven times, four of which came from linebacker Will Anderson. The sophomore's seven sacks are tied for sixth-most nationally, and his 15 total tackles for loss lead the nation. If Anderson keeps this up, he'll find himself in the running for some national awards and near the top of early 2023 NFL mock drafts.
Tennessee's quarterback situation: Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker left late in the Volunteers' loss to Ole Miss with an apparent leg injury. While Heupel said he doesn't believe Hooker's injury is a long-term problem, the Volunteers could be in a tough position if he is unavailable. Hooker has provided a clear upgrade at quarterback since entering for an injured Joe Milton in the Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh. If he can't play, Milton would presumably take over again. The Michigan transfer has been plagued by accuracy issues in five appearances, particularly with the deep ball.
Not the first meeting: This is Heupel first game against Saban as a head coach, but it's not the first time he's faced the legendary coach. Heupel called the plays at Oklahoma in a 45-31 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2013 season. Soon thereafter, Saban hired Lane Kiffin, whose offensive philosophy is similar to Heupel's, to modernize the Crimson Tide offense.
How to watch Alabama vs. Tennessee live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 23 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Alabama vs. Tennessee prediction, picks
Alabama got right last week, and with Tennessee likely drained from the Ole MIss game, this should be a blowout. Saban likely won't be inclined to show mercy to a program that recently found a way to fire his former longtime assistant, Jeremy Pruitt, with cause. Prediction: Alabama (-27.5)
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