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October 25, 2013

The Friday Primer

As fans have basked in the jubilation of Saturday's dramatic 23-21 win over South Carolina, Butch Jones and his football team have been trying to find a way to make Saturday's trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala. a four quarter fight. Something the Tennessee program has struggled to do.

In 2009, Tennessee lost in dramatic fashion as Daniel Lincoln's field goal was blocked. Since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, the Tide has outscored the Vols 204-65. An average margin of 23 points.

This is a different Tennessee team. It's a team that has some confidence and has some belief. They head into the Alabama game with a winning record for the first time since 2007 and with a win over a ranked opponent. But this is not a different Alabama team. The Tide are unbeaten atop the college football world and are doing things their way. Winning on defense and wearing people out. Alabama has outscored their last three SEC opponents 125-7.

Tennessee isn't in denial and knows the challenges the face on both sides of the ball. Defensive coordinator John Jancek doesn't see any flaws in the Tide offense that has balance and depth and an offense that a week ago didn't commit a turnover or penalty.
Stats
Pts. scored 213 285
Avg. rushing yds. 201.7 211.7
Rushing defense 181.7 98.3
Avg. passing yds. 166.3 248.7
Completion % 53.9 68.9
Passing defense 230.1 176.7
3rd down conv. 37-94 39% 40-82 49%
3rd down defense 41-101 41% 28-93 30%

"Obviously, A.J. McCarron is a great quarterback. He knows where to go with the ball. They do a great job of protecting him," Jancek said. "They are big and physical up front. They have 3 great backs. Those guys are big and physical. They can really pound you. Then on the outside, I mean they have a stable of wideouts that can run. They do a great job of giving you play action and making you defend them deep. Then if you do have a guy in position down the field, they go up and grab the ball out of the air. They are a juggernaut. We have to play good, sound, fundamental football. We have to make them earn everything they get. We can't give them anything and we are going to have to play extremely hard. The thing that I think makes them more challenging is that they are able to play a bunch of different players. They play 3-4 different running backs. Their wideouts are rotating by series. They are putting fresh bodies in there. If you don't have a lot of depth on defense which we obviously don't have right now. That adds another dimension to trying to defend them."

While stopping the Tide offense is hard, the bigger challenge is moving the ball against them. Alabama has only given up 28 third down conversions on 93 attempts and they have only surrendered 11 redzone trips all year.

Tennessee's offense continues to grow. Freshman Marquez North is leading that growth. North the last two weeks has 7 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. In the run game, Tennessee has been much improved the last two weeks averaging nearly 5 yards a carry. Quarterback Justin Worley hasn't committed a turnover in the last two games, a trend that must continue for the Vol offense.

Tennessee vs. #1 Alabama
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Kickoff: 3:30pm est.
Forecast: Sunny 65

TV: CBS
Verne Lundquist (play by play)
Gary Danielson (color analyst)
Tracy Wolfson (sideline)

Radio: The Vol Network
Bob Kesling (play by play)
Tim Priest (color analyst)
Andy Kelly (sideline)

By the numbers

8 - The number of touchdowns the Alabama defense has given up this season. Six of them came against Texas A&M the third game of the season.

8 - That's the number of third down conversions given up by the Vol defense the last two games. Opponents the last two games are 8 of 27 (29.6%) on third down against John Jancek's defense.

20:12 - The amount of time that the Vol offense has had the ball in the fourth quarter of the last two games combined as their conditioning has taken over.

Quotable
"It's not a matter of belief. It's now after the Georgia game a standard and an expectation. We need to live up to the standard we have set for ourselves. We being the players. They have been able to execute. Now week by week, quarter by quarter, play by play, they have to live up to that standard and expectation that has been set. I was happy to see that they did live up to it and continued the progress we have been making since day one." - Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian
Another key for the Vols is the kicking game. Tennessee has been outstanding in their kick coverage. Against Georgia, the Vols clearly won in the third phase of the game. The block punt for a touchdown was obviously a huge play and the highlight, but Tennessee also won in other areas. Georgia only returned one kickoff for 18 yards. Of the 4 punt returns, the Bulldogs netted -2 yards. In the last two games, the opponents have 1 yard on 6 punt returns.

Tennessee will be breaking in a new kickoff return man. With Vincent Dallas no longer on the team, freshman Malik Foreman is slated to handle kickoff return duties.

KEY MATCHUP

There are plenty of challenges for the Vols in trying to knock off the top ranked team in the the country. But the biggest is the offense against the Alabama defense. Yes, within that there are several match-ups, but this is an Alabama defense that the last 5 games has surrendered one touchdown and for the year has given up 8 total touchdowns this year. Six of them came from Texas A&M. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said the challenge with Alabama is the fact that defensively they don't make many mistakes.

"Very disciplined football team that executes their scheme very well," Bajakian said. "They don't have any deficiencies and they have depth at every position. They execute well. They ask their guys to do a number of things and they do them well."

For a closer look at the rest of the match-up's, check out How they match-up from Rob Lewis.

#TRENDING

The Vols conditioning. And it's showing up in a lot of areas. At Florida, the Vols gave up 10 first downs in 18 3rd down tries. The last two games, the defense has been able to get off the field on third down. They have given up just 8 third downs in 27 tries and in doing so he Vols are dominating time of possession especially in the 4th quarter. Tennessee's offense is also showing up to be much more effective in the second half. Against Georgia and South Carolina in the first half, the Vols had 281 yards on 71 snaps (3.95 yards a play and 23 points). In the second half combined, the offense has amassed 441 yards on 78 snaps (5.65 yards a play and 34 points).

MAXIM THAT MATTERS

Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle - for this is the WINNING EDGE

To pull off an upset of the top-ranked team in the country, the Vols must do a lot of things well. They have to create turnovers. They must gang tackle on defense against an Alabama offense that's physical in the ground game and can get down the field in play-action pass.

Offensively, the Vols must do something few have been able to do. The Vols must be able to run the football with some kind of effectiveness. Alabama is giving up less than 100 yards a game on the ground and they are throttling teams on third down by forcing them into third and long.

In an effort to make this a four quarter fight, Tennessee doesn't have to be perfect but they have to exceptional in all phases of the game and they must take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.



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