KNOXVILLE- The last time Tennessee defeated Alabama the iPhone hadn’t been released and ‘The Sopranos’ finale already aired. After 16 years of heartache, the Vols have a team capable of beating the Tide and contending in the SEC.
There is a lot to say about the magnitude of the Tennessee-Alabama matchup, with more on the way Friday. In my opinion, this is the biggest matchup in Knoxville since the Vols defeated Florida in 1998. The goal posts ended up in the Tennessee River.
SEC Predictions: Alabama @ Tennessee
The questions surrounding the availability of Alabama’s Bryce Young will linger until game time. I do expect to see two quarterbacks on Saturday for the Tide, with Jalen Milroe getting into the game at some point. Tennessee will look to put Bryce on the turf consistently, which could lead to a switch.
Jahmyr Gibbs will be needed to take some of the pressure off the Alabama quarterbacks. On the defensive side, Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner will look to wreak havoc on Hendon Hooker.
Quick Stats: Alabama currently ranks 3rd in the country in rushing offense, averaging 257 yards per game. Tennessee is only giving up 89 yards per game on the ground, so something will have to give on Saturday. Both teams are averaging over 500 yards of total offense per game, with Tennessee ranked 1st in the country.
As for Tennessee, coach Josh Heupel has this train barreling down the tracks at full speed. The offense will score points on Saturday behind Hendon Hooker. The availability of WR Cedric Tillman will be something to watch, but he would be an added bonus for the Vols.
Tennessee will need its defense to play like it did against LSU, especially against the run. Alabama will present the biggest test to date for the Tennessee offensive line, which will need Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright to pass-block consistently.
If we are going off the game alone, not using the past as factor in predicting this game, I’ve come to this conclusion:
After 16 years of torture and agony at the hands of Alabama, the streak finally comes to an end Saturday evening. The goal posts will end up somewhere on Cumberland Avenue or the Tennessee River, maybe next to the ones from 1998. Tennessee 34, Alabama 30
SEC Predictions: Mississippi State @ Kentucky
There’s no reason to sugarcoat what’s happening in Lexington. The ‘Cats have not lived up to expectations. The absence of quarterback Will Levis against South Carolina certainly hurt, but it shouldn’t have been enough to lose that game. This team feels deflated, considering the preseason expectations.
How does Kentucky stop Mississippi State QB Will Rogers? I guess the Wildcats can try to mimic what LSU did to the Bulldogs last month with its pass defense. But this feels like a different Mike Leach team compared to the one that lost in Baton Rouge. Consecutive wins over Texas A&M and Arkansas will certainly drum up momentum, and MSU won those two games with solid defense as well.
Sorry Kentucky fans, but even with Will Levis back in the lineup, he’ll most likely still be limited when rushing the ball. The Bulldogs defense has played inspired football lately and Will Rogers has been throwing dimes. The losing streak for Kentucky continues. Mississippi State 30, Kentucky 20
SEC Predictions: LSU @ Florida
After the performance LSU put up against Tennessee last weekend, the Gators should be licking their chops for this one. The Tigers rushing game was held to 55 yards against a Vols defense that hadn’t looked stellar coming into that game. Florida’s Anthony Richardson will have to throw the football with conviction on Saturday, along with making plays outside the pocket with his legs.
Jayden Daniels looks to be uncomfortable passing the ball in certain situations, which Florida’s Jaydon Hill could take advantage of Saturday. I know the Gators haven’t been consistent on offense, outside of the running game, but this feels like the perfect opportunity for Anthony Richardson to go off. If Florida establishes the run, then it will be a long day for Brian Kelly.
This game will be heated and fun to watch, but I don’t see the Tigers having enough on offense to win. Florida 27, LSU 20
SEC Predictions: Auburn @ Ole Miss
Could this be Bryan Harsin’s last game as the head coach at Auburn? It’s certainly possible, considering the Tigers are coming up on a bye week. While Ole Miss has found different ways to win games, Auburn’s offense has gone missing in the second half of every SEC game this season. Simply put, I don’t know a single person outside of the Auburn facility who trusts the offensive scheme at this point.
Now that QB Jaxson Dart has gotten comfortable with Lane Kiffin’s offensive play calling, he is thriving. Auburn’s defense could present a few problems for the Rebels offensive line, but I don’t see the Tigers being able to put up enough points to keep up with Ole Miss. A healthier Zach Evans at running back will only benefit Kiffin’s offense.
This could be the end for Harsin. Ole Miss 37, Auburn 17
SEC Predictions: Arkansas @ BYU
The Razorbacks are riding a 3-game losing streak into Provo. The status of quarterback KJ Jefferson is the main storyline for this game. If Jefferson can’t go, at least for a full game, Arkansas will rely on Malik Hornsby, who was 8-of-17 passing for 234 yards in Jefferson’s place.
For BYU, it comes down to QB Jaren Hill, who has thrown for 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. The Cougars lost a close game to Notre Dame last weekend, while defeating Baylor earlier in this season. This is certainly a hot-and-cold team that the Razorbacks should beat if fully healthy. Arkansas 28, BYU 24
SEC Predictions: Vanderbilt @ Georgia
Kirby Smart had his team dialed in last weekend on defense, defeating Auburn 42-10. The Dawgs will run the football and most likely try to get Stetson Bennett rolling through the air. Georgia needs to get out of this one healthy, with the bye week coming up. A showdown with Florida is coming up in two weeks. Georgia 42, Vanderbilt 10
Enjoy the Saturday slate and continue to follow OutKick and @TreyWallace_ for the latest news in College Football.