The Vols will try to bounce back from the Kentucky loss as they face No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee comes off a humiliating 34-7 loss to Kentucky in Neyland last weekend. This was Kentucky’s first win against the Vols in Neyland since 19854 and largest margin of victory against the Vols since 1935. In the loss, Tennessee had four turnovers (a fumble, two pick sixes, and an interception).
In fact, Kentucky had more interception returning yards than Tennessee had passing yards (126-112). The awful QB play from Jarrett Guarantano eventually led to JT Shrout and Harrison Bailey to get some snaps. Jeremy Pruitt said after the game that the QB position is up for grabs.
However, he did say that he will decide who will start based on who looks the best in practice this week. If that is the case, it is most likely that Guarantano will be the starter. Alabama is coming off a massive 41-24 win over No. 3 Georgia. QB Mac Jones had an impressive performance, going 24/32 with 417 yards, 4 TDs, and an INT.
Jones has been labeled as the next Joe Burrow and is the leader right now in the Heisman race. WR Devonta Smith had another impressive performance, catching 11 passes for 167 yards and 2 TDs. RB Najee Harris once again had a great game, having 31 carries for 152 yards and 1 TD.
Alabama managed to rack up 564 yards of offense against a Georgia defense, many regard, as one of the best in the country. With the amount of weapons this Alabama offense has, it maybe the best offense Nick Saban has ever had. Alabama leads the Third Saturday in October 56-38-7 against Tennessee.
Alabama has dominated the series, winning 13 straight games. During that 13-game winning streak, the Crimson Tide has defeated the Vols by an average of 25.3 points. As much as it pains me to say this, this game is no longer the respected rivalry it once was.
It is a very very long list, but here is what Tennessee needs to do to beat Alabama:
Give Another Quarterback an Opportunity
There is no sugarcoating it: Guarantano does not have what it takes to be successful at Tennessee. We have known this for almost three years.
Yet, for some reason, Pruitt continues to give Guarantano chance after chance. Guarantano has been the reason for six of the seven turnovers in the last two games against Georgia and Kentucky. In the 2nd half against Georgia, Guarantano threw an INT and fumbled twice with one returning for a touchdown.
Against Kentucky, Guarantano had a fumble and threw two INTs that were returned for touchdowns. With Guarantano on the field in the last two games, Tennessee has been outscored 61-7. Guarantano is a lost cause at this point and Tennessee needs to move on.
Yes, Pruitt did give Shrout and Bailey a chance last weekend. However, Shrout was only out for one drive before throwing an INT and being replaced by Guarantano. Bailey was only put in with eight minutes left in the game when it was already lost. Pruitt must give another guy a chance. Whether if it is Brian Mauer, Shrout, or Bailey.
Tennessee must have a new QB at the helm come Saturday if they want to any shot of winning.
Tennessee Must Play With More Discipline
This goes for both sides of the football. Tennessee must be more discipline this weekend. Last weekend, there was no discipline among the team.
In addition to the turnovers, Tennessee had six penalties that cost them 63 yards as well. One penalty coming from Pruitt for unsportsmanlike conduct. Tennessee also had three turnovers against Georgia (two fumbles, and an INT). The Vols also had 10 penalties for 84 yards in the loss to Georgia.
So in total, Tennessee has had 16 penalties in the last two games that cost them 147 yards. Alabama’s offense will take advantage of these opportunities. Alabama has the 5th best offense in the country averaging 561 yards a game and averaging 48.5 points a game. Their offense is loaded with talent from top to bottom.
If the Vols continue to play this undisciplined style of football, they won’t have a chance winning Saturday.
The Vols Must Play The Most Perfect Game They Have Played In Years
I’m gonna be honest, Tennessee has no shot winning this game, and I mean no chance beating Alabama. This is based off the last six quarters of football Tennessee has played. Tennessee has been played below average football at best in their last two games.
Being outscored 61-7 in the last six quarters, Pruitt has to change this fast. First, quarterback play will have to be perfect and it is not going to come from Guarantano. This means either Mauer or Bailey will have to step out. Mauer showed flashes last season and is considered to be a game time player.
But, Mauer also has been injury-prone in his career so far and has been dealing with a hamstring problem this year. Bailey has only thrown four passes in his entire career. If we’re gonna be honest, making him start his first game against Alabama would be an enormous amount of pressure and confidence suicide. Bailey did throw a beautiful completion last weekend, but we still do not know much about him.
The offensive line has to improve, fast. To say that the offensive line has been underwhelming would be an understatement. The offensive line gave up two sacks, five TFLs and a fumble against Kentucky. The line also gave up five sacks, six TFLs, and two fumbles against Georgia as well.
Folks gave this offensive line the nickname: the Tennessee Valley Authority. Well if they continue these performances, they will earn a new nickname: Swiss Cheese.
Last, Tennessee’s defense has to find a way to slow down Alabama’s offense. Tennessee won’t win this football game if they let Alabama rack up 35-40 points. They need to find a way to slow down this offense and put pressure on Jones. If Tennessee’s front seven can put pressure on Jones and force him out of the pocket and make him uncomfortable, they will get a shot.
But if they allow Jones time, he will look like Burrow on Shields-Watkins Field and hang 5-6 TDs. Tennessee did a relatively good job last season on stopping and slowing down Alabama’s offense. Tennessee put pressure on Alabama’s offense by constantly using different blitz packages. This gave the Vols a couple opportunities a chance to make it a close game.
Tennessee will need to do this again if they want any shot come Saturday. But, if Tennessee doesn’t play with more discipline and improve fast, Alabama will hang a 50 burger on the Big Orange.