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October 26, 2013

The Cheat Sheet

This afternoon, Butch Jones' team finds themselves huge underdogs as they travel to Alabama to take on the top ranked team in the country. It's obviously a huge challenge for the Vols where a lot of things have to go well to pull off the upset. We look at some of those things with The Cheat Sheet.

1. Win on first down - Defensively, the Vols had South Carolina in third and long all day because they won first down. Tennessee's goal is to hold the offense on first down to three yards or less 65 percent of the time. They held South Carolina to 3 yards or less 71 percent of the time. Tennessee's defense must find a way to win on early downs to put the Tide in obvious passing situations on 3rd down. Offensively, Tennessee must be in 3rd and manageable situations. The last two years against the Tide, Tennessee's offense is just 4 of 27 on 3rd down tries. Tennessee must win on early downs to make 3rd down a realistic conversion opportunity.

2. Tackle - Defensive coordinator John Jancek called it sub-par, particularly in open space. Obviously, Alabama's run game is among the best averaging 212 yards a game. The Tide bring a stable of running backs to the table and tackling is going to be at a premium for the Vols. Tennessee must rally to the ball in the run game and in the passing game, Tennessee must be really good in the open field. Something they were not very good at Saturday in the win over South Carolina.

3. Seize opportunities - Outside of the Texas A&M game, the Tide has given up just 2 touchdowns this season. They are giving up just over 9 points a game and that includes the Texas A&M game. So scoring is going to be at a premium and no easy task. Last week, Tennessee had a couple of early opportunities to score and couldn't make the play when a receiver was open. The Vols lost 16 yards after the South Carolina shanked punt. Tennessee can't afford to miss out on points when those opportunities present themselves. They must score.

4. Get it to the 4th - Tennessee has played the Tide close 2 of the last 3 years for a half. In 2011, it was a 6-6 game at the half. In 2010, it was 13-10 Alabama. But in both those games, the Tide took control in the second half. The last two weeks, Tennessee has been better than their opponent in the 4th quarter. Last week The Vols had 120 yards on 22 snaps and had the football for 9:55. South Carolina had 15 yards on 12 snaps and only had the ball 5:05 seconds. Tennessee has been winning the fourth quarter. Saturday, they have to get to the 4th quarter with the game within reach to see if they can win in the final quarter against the Tide.

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