NO. 1 ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (6-0, 3-0 SEC) AT NO. 9 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (5-1, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. at Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
FIVE THINGS WHAT TO WATCH:
1. Marquee matchup: For the first time in 17 years, both the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers enter their “Third Saturday in October” series game ranked in the top-10. That season, in 1999, saw a No. 5 Volunteers team knock off the No 10. Crimson Tide 21-7. Alabama owns a 4-3-1 record over Tennessee, but is 0-2-1 when both were top-10 teams.
2. Pressure situation: Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has been sensational at times this season, scoring multiple passing and rushing touchdowns in the same game twice already this season. Still, the 18-year-old has had a difficult time when pressured, something Tennessee pass rushers Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen have done with regularity this season with seven combined sacks among them. According to CFBFilmRoom.com, when pressured this season, Hurts is just 7-of-27 for 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
3. The Hurd is back: Tennessee tailback Jalen Hurd is expected to be a major contributor Saturday after missing much of the last two games with what has been described as multiple “undisclosed” injuries. That has allowed fellow tailback Alvin Kamara to shine. But despite his absence, Hurd remains the Vols’ top rusher with 407 yards so far this season and is averaging 97.8 all-purpose yards through five games.
4. Harris and Jacobs: Sophomore tailback Damien Harris has cemented his place as Alabama’s No. 1 tailback with a team-high 478 yards rushing and three 120-plus yard games. Of course, when Harris was injured for the better part of two weeks, true freshman Joshua Jacobs filled in admirably with 197 combined rushing yards on 27 carries against Kent State and Kentucky. Jacobs again flashed his big-play potential with a 56-yard run on his first carry against Arkansas but left the game with an injury and didn’t return. Both are believed to be fully healthy and could match Tennessee’s backfield duo blow for blow Saturday.
5. The Key Match-Up – LBs Shaun Hamilton/Reuben Foster vs. RBs Jalen Hurd/Alvin Kamara: This will undoubtedly be a game won between the tackles, and that means there will be several meetings between these four individuals. With Tennessee head coach Butch Jones declaring the 240-pound Hurd healthy and good to go, it’ll be interesting to see how Hurd’s physicality matches up with a trimmed down Foster, who is known for his devastating collisions but is still overcoming a concussion suffered in the second half last week against Arkansas. Kamara is a familiar face having signed with the Tide out of high school in 2013 but is now in his second season with Tennessee and currently ranks fourth in the SEC averaging 114.2 all-purpose yards per game this season. Hamilton has provided Foster a nice compliment on the inside and ranks just behind his hard-hitting senior counterpart in tackles with 34 on the season.
As has been the case the last several years, this year’s Third Saturday in October game will be won in the fourth quarter. Tennessee has shown an affinity for second-half comebacks this season, falling behind by double digits in nearly every game only to rally back to at least tie the game and win four of the five. The lone loss came last weekend at Texas A&M when the Aggies pulled off a double-overtime victory despite the Vols coming back to tie the game with 14 points in the final 2:07. A lot of that is a credit to senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who helped Tennessee take a fourth-quarter lead last season in Tuscaloosa only to watch Alabama rally in the final 3 minutes for a 19-14 win. Expect a little more scoring this season given the talent on both offenses, but the Tide has shown a fortitude to hold on despite allowing some late scores defensively.
Alabama 38, Tennessee 27