Top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama is a 34-point favorite over Tennessee this weekend in Tuscaloosa. That mere fact alone tells you this match up is anything but a typical Tennessee-Alabama game. Have the Vols really fallen that far behind Alabama in a short period of time? I believe they have.
Alabama is very good, period. I joked on my radio show this week that the more interesting scenario for the post season would be to go ahead and present the Tide with the National Championship Trophy, and have four other teams then battle it out for second place. On the other hand, right now Tennessee is a bad football team.
The Volunteers have no leadership, and while I don't believe they have quit on their head coach, they are not playing hard at all for him.
Someone quipped last year that next to Alabama, Tennessee had as much talent as any other school in the SEC. That might have been true a year ago and, while Coach Butch Jones has recruited well, the players have not been developed properly. How many times have you seen the Vols go almost a month without scoring a touchdown? A lot of people have criticized redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano for throwing his helmet in disgust after the Vols were beaten by South Carolina last weekend. Guarantano openly wept following the loss; one that ended with the Vols knocking on the door inside the Gamecocks five yard line when time ran out. I'm not saying a single thing critical of Guarantano. If only a few more of his teammates had shown that kind of fire and determination, Tennessee may have been able to pull that one out.
Now the waiting game continues. Firing Coach Jones before the Alabama game wouldn't make any sense at all, but when you think about it, how much sense does it make to fire him after the 'Bama game? Athletic Director John Currie has been struggling all along with that huge buyout package, which if would cost Tennessee almost eleven million dollars by the time you compensate Jones and his entire coaching staff. That's a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to what could be ahead if Jones is allowed to continue.
Some of my Big Orange friends have stated they don't plan to watch the Tennessee-Alabama game this year. They say they won't be able to watch the carnage on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium. After all, being a 34-point underdog is the biggest point spread in the history of this series, and, while that's a lot of points, many are expecting a much bigger defeat. I will watch the game at least from the start and I will hope and pray that the Volunteers will make it more respectable than a 34-point defeat. Some teams even play much better when their backs are up against the wall. I hope the Vols play the game with that kind of attitude.
Unless a miracle occurs this could be the longest Third Saturday in October ever, which is in no way typical of this great rivalry.
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