There was a time when the Tennessee Volunteers were expected to be Alabama football’s greatest contender for the SEC crown. That time has now come and passed.
The Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC) put up a statement performance against the Vols (5-2, 2-2 SEC) on Rocky Top.
Alabama, off the strength of another transcendent performance from true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, beat Tennessee, 49-10. The Crimson Tide absolutely dominated the Volunteers and it wasn’t even close.
Alabama put up 594 yards as a team and the Tide defense held the Vols to only 163. That’s a 431-yard difference on the road against the No. 9 team in the nation. Speaking of difference, if that stat alone doesn’t point out the difference between No. 1 Alabama and nearly every other program in the nation, nothing will.
Tennessee has been inconsistent this season and was coming off a tough loss to Texas A&M, but Alabama proved that it is on a completely different planet compared to its SEC foe.
The Crimson Tide were 6-for-12 on third down conversions while holding Tennessee to just 3-of-16 on third down attempts. The Crimson Tide did lose the turnover and penalty battles, normally a recipe for a loss, but Alabama made up for those mistakes thanks to an elite run game and a stifling defense.
Alabama rushed for 438 yards as a team. To put that in perspective, and to also give the Tide’s defense the credit it deserves, the Vols were able to rush for only 32 yards. This was despite the fact that Tennessee has a dangerous rushing backfield with junior running back Jalen Hurd and senior dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who are both able to break big plays. The Tide held Hurd to just 28 yards on 13 carries, though (a measly 2.2 yards per touch), and Dobbs totaled negative 31 yards thanks to three Alabama sacks. The Crimson Tide also notched 10 tackles for loss and sophomore defensive back Ronnie Harrison took an interception back 58-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Harrison’s touchdown was Alabama’s eighth defensive score of the season, which is tops in the nation.
Back to Alabama’s offense, though, which has been unstoppable so far this season.
Heading into the game, the Crimson Tide was on top of the SEC in scoring offense with 45.4 points per game. That ranking shouldn’t change after the boatload of points it put up on the Vols. Alabama was also second in the SEC in total offense and rushing offense, only behind Texas A&M. The Aggies had a bye this weekend and will play Alabama next weekend in the SEC matchup of the year, so there’s a very real chance that the Tide can lead the SEC in all of the aforementioned offensive categories in a few weeks.
A lot of that comes down to the play of the freshman quarterback.
Hurts was once again stellar for Alabama’s offense, making most of his impact with his feet. He rushed 12 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 16-of-26 passes for 143 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
So far as a true freshman Hurts has been elite for Alabama, and he’s starting to find himself on the radar as a Heisman Trophy contender. Through seven games, most of them as the starter for Alabama, Hurts has thrown or 1,385 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions while rushing for 428 yards and eight touchdowns. He has calmly handled his major role on the No. 1 team in college football, and he’s been one of the major reasons Alabama’s offense has been so explosive in 2016.
Another reason is the collection of playmakers he has around him, and against Tennessee sophomore running back Bo Scarbrough made the biggest impact in his first career start. Scarbrough rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown, amazingly doing so in only five carries. He averaged 21.8 yards per carry and he, along with Hurts, became the eighth duo in school history to be part of a game in which two Crimson Tide players rushed for over 100 yards. In fact, it was the first time Alabama’s offense was able to accomplish that feat since 2014 against West Virginia, which again points to how good this unit has been.
If that were not enough, the Crimson Tide also got it done on special teams.
Senior kicker Adam Griffith did miss a field goal, but senior defensive back Eddie Jackson made up for that and more with a 79-yard punt return touchdown to start the fourth quarter.
“We feel pretty good as a team,” Jackson said after the game, according to Joseph Goodman of AL.com.
“I think this is one of the most complete games we’ve played. We still had two turnovers on offense and have some things we need to work on, but it was a good game. Everyone came in and executed and played four quarters of football.”
Offense, defense and special teams. A complete game.
It was an all-around dominant performance from the Crimson Tide. Slowly but surely all of the contenders for Alabama’s SEC crown are looking up at the No. 1 team in the nation. Texas A&M will be Alabama’s next and toughest test, but who among us at this point is willing to bet against Saban and his crew?
This is a team operating on all cylinders. Alabama is a well-oiled machine. A runaway train.
A rolling Tide.