That’s right folks, it’s the Third Saturday in October.
While the rivalry may not hold as much weight as it once did, Vols fans finally have a reason to be excited after last week’s major win against Auburn.
Despite the opponent, Tennessee should have plenty of confidence heading into this game and that should lead to some big plays for the Big Orange.
1. Tua Tagovailoa throws his first pick of the year.
We all know the stat so far. Tagovailoa has thrown 22 touchdowns to zero interceptions.
That changes this weekend.
I am a firm believer of Jeremy Pruitt and this defense. They have improved dramatically each week and even though they are without Jonathan Kongbo for the rest of the season and Daniel Bituli for the first half, I think they will still be able to make plays.
It will require a complete team effort, but Pruitt and defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer will have these kids in the right position. Execution will be critical and this team showed last week that they can execute a game plan for a SEC opponent.
Tagovailoa’s health could also come into play. The Vols should be able to get enough pressure to force him to move out of the pocket, which would provide a great opportunity for an errant throw.
The best-case scenario would be an early interception to send Neyland Stadium into a frenzy.
2. Jarrett Guarantano throws for over 250 yards in consecutive weeks.
This would be the first time that Guarantano ever hit this mark in his career. So, why not make it happen against the best team in college football?
It will be a tall order, but Pruitt should have a minor amount of insight as to how this team operates on defense and that should help JG.
Teams that beat Alabama have done so by throwing the ball. Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton and Guarantano finally found a groove last weekend and I fully expect that to continue this week.
3. Josh Palmer goes over 100 receiving yards.
Can this be the week Tennessee’s deep threat crosses the century mark?
I believe so. Palmer has a unique blend of size and strength with just enough to speed to make him the Vols’ primary deep threat and he has found a lot of success in 2018.
He is only two yards behind Marquez Callaway for the team lead in receiving yards despite recording only 11 receptions on the season.
This Alabama secondary hasn’t allowed a 100-yard receiver on the season, so it will be a challenge for Palmer to get there, but it can be done.
4. Tagovailoa plays the fourth quarter (barring injury).
Alabama’s quarterback hasn’t played a single snap in the fourth quarter this season. That’s due to the Crimson Tide’s tremendous ability to annihilate their opponents mainly before halftime.
I don’t think the Vols will be within reach heading into the fourth quarter, but a two-touchdown lead from the Tide would be enough to keep Tagovailoa around for the duration of the game.
That sounds about right for this game and the Vols will make it happen.
5. Tennessee covers the spread.
In this case, being a (+29) point underdog isn’t disrespect, it’s just reality.
But just like they showed last week, the Vols aren’t exactly the doormat most think they are.
A four-touchdown victory for Alabama could very well happen, but this team has fought too hard over the course of the season to let that happen at this point.
I’m not saying they’ll give the Bammers a run for their money, but I don’t think they get buried like Vegas does.