No. 8 Alabama hoping to bring road magic home vs Tennessee
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) The Tennessee Volunteers have at least one thing going for them against Alabama: They’re not playing the game at home.
The only time the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide has looked the least bit vulnerable has been at Bryant-Denny Stadium, even with most of the 101,000-plus fans in the team’s corner. The Vols visit on Saturday hoping that trend continues – and a couple of other ones end.
Away from home, the Tide (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) has blasted Georgia and Texas A&M from the Top 10 and handled Wisconsin.
”I never thought it was an issue until this year but probably the three best games that we’ve played this year have all been on the road,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team lost to Mississippi and had shaky moments in other games at home.
Tennessee (3-3, 1-2), meanwhile, has flirted with upsets of No. 13 Florida and No. 17 Oklahoma. The Vols are hoping to change their fortunes against a longtime rival who has beaten them eight straight years, even if Alabama is a 15-point favorite to get No. 9.
Tennessee also hasn’t beaten a Top 10 team in nine years but doesn’t lack confidence.
”We have a lot of talent,” Vols safety Brian Randolph said. ”We had talent last year. We’ve got a lot of talent this year. The biggest change with us is our mentality. We don’t hope to win. We expect to win.
”Last year we got it within 14 (a 34-20 loss). We feel like we’ve got to go in there and finish it off this year.”
Saban said the Vols have steadily improved under coach Butch Jones. For his part, Jones said he believes Alabama, riding a four-game winning streak, has been playing ”the best football of any team in the country.”
Here are some things to watch in Saturday’s game:
TOP 10 TROUBLES: Tennessee is trying to snap a 23-game losing streak against Top 10 teams. The Volunteers’ last win against a team ranked that high came 51-33 over No. 10 Georgia on Oct. 7, 2006.
DOBBS VS. ALABAMA: This is the first time Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs has started against Alabama, but he’s gotten plenty of action the past two meetings. Dobbs replaced Nathan Peterman after two series last season after also coming off the bench as a freshman. Dobbs, the league’s top rusher among quarterbacks so far, has only been intercepted twice.
HOT HENRY: Alabama tailback Derrick Henry is coming off a 236-yard performance against Texas A&M and has 85 carries over the past three games. Henry’s 12 straight games with at least one rushing touchdown is the nation’s longest active streak..
TIDE THIEVERY: Maligned at times in recent seasons, Alabama’s defensive backs have an impressive interception binge going. The Tide DBs have picked off 10 passes in the last four games, returning three for touchdowns against Texas A&M. Safety Eddie Jackson has five interceptions this season, with 230 return yards.
RUNNING COKER: Alabama quarterback Jake Coker isn’t known as a dual threat like Dobbs, but he’s shown a knack for running – if not for avoiding contact. Teammates have dubbed him ”Baby Roethlisberger” and ”Vanilla Vick” and said his still infrequent runs have fired them up. Saban said he’s not sweating the extra hits on the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Coker much. ”I kind of like it when he runs over them,” the coach said. ”It’s the personality of the player. Jake’s a tough, competitive guy. He’s a big, physical guy. He’s getting better and better every week. I don’t want to take his aggressiveness away because we’re fearful something bad is going to happen. I just don’t coach that way.”