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Beat writer Q&A: Breaking down Alabama-Tennessee

In advance of Alabama’s matchup with Tennessee on Saturday, we talked to Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel to break down the Vols.

Here’s what he said about Tennessee and the game:

1) What’s the feeling around the Tennessee program heading into this game?

Some optimistic Vols fans are holding out hope that UT can be competitive in this game. Mostly, though, I think there’s a lot more interest in the Vols’ four SEC games after Saturday. What happens in those will determine if this team makes a bowl. Any bowl bid in Year 1 of Jeremy Pruitt is a sign of progress.

2) How much better is this team than it was a month or so ago?

Tough to say. Tennessee played by far its best game of the season in last week’s 30-24 win over Auburn. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had a career-best performance, and the defense forced three turnovers. One good game is nice. Another will show it wasn’t lightning in a bottle.

3) What are some areas Tennessee feels like it could have some success against Alabama?

Ehhhh, maybe some downfield passing? Guarantano connected on several deep shots against Auburn. Might as well take some chances against Alabama. Chuck it long and hope the Tennessee receivers come down with some 50/50 balls.

4) What are some areas that are concerns for Tennessee heading into this game?

Like, everywhere. Alabama is operating on a different level than the rest of college football. The Vols need to be careful with Guarantano. He’s taken a lot of hits this year. They can’t afford an injury to their improving QB.

5) What’s your take on the game?

Alabama 49, Tennessee 10.

Tennessee’s win over Auburn changed the outlook for the second half of the Vols’ season. All of a sudden, UT looks like a team that has a shot at a bowl game.

Beating Alabama – or even remaining competitive with the Crimson Tide – is a different type of challenge than beating South Carolina, Missouri or Vanderbilt.

Pruitt said Alabama is the best team he has ever evaluated on film at this juncture of the season.

Best-case scenario for Tennessee is that it emerges without anyone getting hurt.

For more on Tennessee, check out Blake’s work online or on Twitter.

Matt Zenitz is an Alabama and Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mzenitz.

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