Alabama vs Tennessee Game Review

There are beatdowns and then there are Beatdowns, and on Saturday we witnessed a Beatdown of epic proportions. The Third Saturday in Rock-tober saw Alabama crush the Vols by winning 49-10. But, frankly, the game was never even that close. With eight starters out, the Vols came into the game beaten down and then were summarily beaten down by the Tide’s running game and a relentless Bama defense.

Insults to injuries. No mas. No lo contendre.

We here at the Bama Lighthouse believe that old school football still wins and that begins and ends in the trenches. We’ve said many times that you can have all the “pretties” you want at wide receiver, running back and quarterback but if you don’t have an offensive line then all the pretties in the world won’t matter. From Tennessee’s first offensive series of the game, it was evident that their patchwork offensive line would be no match for Bama’s beasties up front. As we say at the house, from Tennessee’s perspective it was “fugly.”

On the other side of the ball, Bama’s ever improving offensive line completely and totally dominated Tennessee on the ground. Three Bama ballcarriers nearly went for 100 yards with Jalen Hurts gaining 132, Bo Scarborough with 109 and Damien Harris with 94 yards rushing. There are so many stats that show Bama’s true dominance in this game but perhaps the most telling is that Bo Scarborough gained his 109 yards on only FIVE carries. My God – imagine if he’d played the whole game!

Bama outgained the Vols 594 to 163. Heck, the Tide’s defense and special teams outscored the Vols all by themselves. The beatings were so bad that both teams were playing their backup QBs for the final 11 minutes of the game. How did it happen? Well, look no further than the line of scrimmage…

Alabama on Defense

We are switching things up a little bit this week and giving praise to a group that seemed to be a little bit maligned after the Arkansas win. Going into the Arkansas game, we stated that Austin Allen was the best true QB we’d seen this year in the SEC and after the Hogs’ victory over Ole Miss we feel pretty good about that statement. But instead of giving Allen credit for getting beaten and battered but still passing for 400 yards, the Tide defense was taken to task for allowing the Hogs to move the football. This week, the Tide defense reminded folks that they can win a game all by themselves if they want to. Josh Dobbs came into the game leading the conference with 20 touchdowns yet he was completely eliminated from having an impact in this game.

The 2016 Bama defense is beautifully constructed to handle the zone reads and run pass option plays of today’s spread offenses. Bama still continues to control the edges but they do so with a lot more speed and athleticism than the days of Courtney Upshaw. Meanwhile, the Tide’s linebackers are exceptionally fast and can move from sideline to sideline as fast as any back can get to the edge. As they say, speed kills and on Saturday it killed the Vols.

Lastly, the Crimson Tide secondary features five guys who could all play corner if they had to and that makes the throwing windows become very, very constricted.   When you couple their cover skills in with the fact that they only had to cover their receiver for about two seconds, it makes for a long, long day for Josh Dobbs. And it was a long, long day for him…

Tim Williams: This game was over when Tennessee found it impossible to block Tim Williams. Everyone respects his speed around the edge so when a tackle sprints out to protect the edge, Williams smartly and quickly knifes inside to knock down the QB. Williams has also added a bull rush to his repertoire, giving him a ton of tools in his tool box that allows him to go to work in deconstructing an offense. If you want a good time, just watch 56 work over an offensive tackle. He’s a game changer.

Shon Dion-Hamilton: Reuben Foster gets all of the pub but SDH has had a terrific season as the “other” linebacker. Tennessee loves to get the ball out to their backs in the passing game but Foster and Hamilton eliminated any and all yards after catch. Hamilton came up with a huge tackle for loss against Jalen Hurd, diagnosing the play quickly and flying into the backfield to upend the big back.

Defensive Tackles: Another unsung pair of Crimson Tide defenders is Da’Ron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson. This dynamic duo continues to control the middle of the line and this allows the Tide linebackers and safeties to fly to the football and make tackles. Tennessee had no answers for this pair as they often disrupted the pocket, forcing early and erratic throws.

Stack N Shed: No one stacks and sheds like Alabama’s defenders. Each play is a freaking clinic on how to jam your hands into your opponent (stack) and then disengage (shed) to make a tackle. Ryan Anderson is so good at this but, honestly, they all are. This is coaching, pure and simple, and no one does it like Bama.

Tight Coverage: As Gary Danielson pointed out, the Tide’s fast and furious pass rush allowed their secondary to come up and play very tight against the UT receivers. Bama’s corners and safeties were playing the sticks all afternoon long in anticipation of a quick throw.

Pick Six: It’s insane the number of touchdowns the Alabama defense has scored. Insane. This week’s version saw Reuben Foster take an inside rush designed to pick off the center, which allowed Jonathan Allen to have a free rush up the middle. However, Fosters rush was so powerful, it took him and the center right into Jalen Hurd’s path and it resulted in an ill advised screen pass getting thrown to Ronnie Harrison and the Tide’s easiest touchdown of the season.

Hit of the Day: I’m in no way, shape or form saying that this made ANY difference in the outcome of the game, however I do wonder how much of an impact Keith Holcombe’s hit on Alvin Kamara had on his ability to make plays.


  • Jeremy Pruitt had fun calling plays during this game. One thing we saw was Alabama line up very strongly to the weak side of the UT line and then blitz into the strong side with Fitzpatrick and others. Clever.  He blitzed fearlessly Saturday.
  • Anthony Averett had perhaps his best game of the season. He was challenged twice on jump balls and each time he defended the play perfectly. He is a little “handsy” and “grabby” so you could see a pass interference in his future.
  • After having 314 yards after catch last week against Texas A&M, Tennessee maybe had 10 to 20 yards against Alabama. The coverage was stifling.
  • Alabama employed a three man rush and still got a sack. Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams raced each other around the edges and met up at Dobbs’ midsection.
  • How about Ryan Anderson with a pass break up on Alvin Kamara? On one play it appeared he was spying Dobbs, as well. What a versatile player Anderson is…
  • Josh Frazier and Da’shawn Hand showed up several times this week, as did Christian Miller. Bama’s depth is just silly and it’s getting sillier with each rep these guys get.
  • I thought Alabama employed several run blitzes on first down. The Vols seemed reluctant to put the ball in the air and Pruitt jumped on this with several blitzes designed to stuff the run.
  • At halftime, Tennessee had run 33 plays and gained 41 yards. INCREDIBLE!
  • There was a coverage bust in the Bama secondary that Gary Danielson pointed out. On the play, Tennessee motioned to trips (three wide receivers on one side) and Foster, Averett and Jackson messed up the coverage.
  • Look out folks, Rashaan Evans is starting to figure things out at linebacker. He shot a couple of gaps and played very, very well at his new position – much, much better by him.

Alabama on Offense

Mercy. When you break down the offense’s performance, I guess you pretty much have to begin with 438 yards of RUSHING, right? When three backs go for 94 yards or more, that’s pretty significant, right?

Credit has to go all across the board for this kind of effort. Obviously, the line continues to gel together and has become one damn fine unit of this damn fine team. However, when there are so many yards gained on the perimeter of the defense, you have to start throwing out kudos to the receivers’ blocks, as well. Ridley, Stewart, Dieter and Diggs all had huge blocks that helped pave the way for those 438 yards rushing. Heck, even Jalen Hurts got out there and had a key block on Ardarius Stewart’s touchdown run off of a double reverse!

Bama’s front line dominated Tennessee to the point that Bo Scarborough could rush for 109 yards on only five carries. That’s just silly, people. From a rushing standpoint, this was obviously Alabama’s best game of the season, the decade and perhaps the century!

As good as Jalen Hurts was at running the ball, he struggled throwing the ball down the field so it wasn’t even close to his best game as a passer. Along with the two turnovers he committed, he missed several wide open receivers and even thru something that looked like an end over end pass. WTH?

This is What You Came For: Prior to the season, we went on and on about how Stewart eclipsed Ridley’s production in the last three games of the season last year and Stewart has done nothing to dispel the notion that he’s every bit as good or better. One area that Stewart most certainly is a LOT better than Ridley is on the fly sweep. Stewart is a former high school quarterback and appears much more confident with the ball in his hands. His cuts, vision and strength are far superior to Ridley’s on the fly/jet sweeps. His touchdown run on the reverse was a nice example of his speed, vision and patience as a runner. Stewart is a dynamic playmaker and it’s great to have him back in the lineup.

You Can Do Magic: Jalen Hurts can do magical things with the ball in his hands. His ball fakes and deception fooled the CBS cameras more than once and the poor Tennessee linebackers are still looking for the ball. Hurts rode one mesh point with Harris so long it looked like they were going steady for about three steps. But, now with numerous repetitions together, Hurts smoothly pulled the ball and strolled into the end zone for a touchdown. Kiddo is smoooooth and is currently running the zone reads about as well as anyone (of any age) can!

Serenity Now: Jalen Hurts is the calmest dude I’ve seen in the pocket this year. With chaos all around him, he calmly stepped up into the pocket and maneuvered his way until he could find a receiver. Sure, that calmness probably resulted in a batted ball that turned into a pick but there was far more good than bad. Love the way he keeps his composure and continues to scan the field.

Better Man: As good as Hurts was on the ground, he had several struggles thru the air. Honestly, I’m not sure we’ve quite seen his best yet. Hurts’ miscues were a fumble, a pick and at least four passes where you wondered if he got hit or something on the release. Jalen himself would tell you he could do so much better…and he’s pretty dang good already, right?


  • If you go back and look, it was evident that Hurts’ running could be an issue for the Vols. On Alabama’s first drive they were facing 3rd & 2 and Hurts ran the zone read keeper wide to the right. Tennessee was completely outnumbered on the edge but a botched block cut down Bama’s pulling blockers and the play lost five yards. It was one Vol on three blockers and Bama realized this and exploited it throughout the game.
  • The threat of the fly sweep allowed Alabama to outnumber the Vols on the edge on numerous occasions. One or both of the UT linebackers would move to the strong side of the formation and then Bama would simply hand it to their back going in the opposite direction. This happened all night long and UT never could adjust. Again, they struggled to pick up where the ball was and that’s a credit to Hurts.
  • One one incompletion, it appeared Joshua Jacobs was supposed to go out for a screen pass but, instead, stayed in to block. The line allowed the rush to come on in and Hurts had no choice but to smartly throw the ball away.
  • Once again there was a series in the game where I noted we had abandoned the run again. Once it became 14-7, Bama went back to Ramming and Jamming the football down Smokey’s throat.
  • Each time Tennessee scored, Alabama scored on the very next possession.
  • Miller Forristall is a force at TE. He showed extremely well as a blocker and he’s got terrific hands. Love. This. Kid.
  • On Hurts’ 45 yard run, Jonah Williams had a down block on the end that wiped out both Tennessee linebackers. There was no pursuit of happiness for those two Vols.
  • My notes call out Diggs, Stewart and Howard for several great blocks but the best block goes to Gehrig Dieter. On Stewarts touchdown run, Dieter engaged with his block for 13 yards down the field, starting at the hashmark and ending when he deposited the UT defender out of bounds! AMAZING!
  • I thought it was interesting that Saban mentioned that Scarborough would have an expanded role and then Bo actually started the game on Saturday. Still, he only had five carries…but damn, he fast!
  • You know, Alabama just wanted to run the clock out and get to halftime but the UT defense was so bad the Tide ended up with a short field goal attempt!
  • The toughest hit Hurts took was when he fell down coming off the team bus.
  • Hey – was that OJ Howard catching a pass? SWEET!

Alabama on Special Teams

Eddie Jackson is so freaking smooth as a punt returner – he’s been a terrific addition to the punt return team. On his return, Jackson took a little jab step and then allowed two UT defenders to run into one another. Derrick Gore cleaned the clock of one of the defenders while Jacobs took out another. That left two great big offensive tackles trying to chase Jackson and only the punter to beat. I’ve never seen two big uglies cover punts – not sure what they are doing there at Tennessee but it ain’t working.

JK Scott quietly had a 50 yard punt average on the day and he continued to allow Alabama to dominate field position this season.

The only knock was the missed field goal by Adam Griffith – sigh.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, this was not a competitive game. Tennessee was outclassed on both lines of scrimmage and, as a result, they were taken out back to the outhouse where Big Al deposited 10 straight “victories” on Smokey’s head.

Jalen Hurts has obviously added a huge threat in the running game and his ability to read it out perfectly on nearly every play is probably undervalued. Also undervalued is his ball fakes and deception – multiple defenders are getting lost in the fakes and that is allowing the Tide to outnumber the defenders on the flanks. Meanwhile, the receivers and tight ends are kicking some serious ass on the edges. Right now, the rushing offense is a thing of beauty. There will eventually be a day when Hurts will have to prove he can win a game with his arm but that day shouldn’t be this week.

And then there’s the defense. I’ve never, ever seen a defense generate this much scoring! Nine straight games of scoring a non-offensive touchdown is ridiculous. The fact that they have scored as many touchdowns as they have allowed is even more ridiculous. Bama’s defense & special teams scoring alone would have beaten USC, Kent State, Kentucky and Tennessee! Credit Jeremy Pruitt for blitzing without remorse as that is creating some huge scoring opportunities for the Tide.

Up next is Texas A&M. At first blush, the Aggies look very overrated. Put it this way – they appear to be equal to the Vols. Vegas has installed Bama as a 17 point favorite – I’m not sure that’s gonna be enough.

W2W4 Alabama vs Tennessee

Ahhh, the Third Saturday in October. It’s a reverent day in the lore of the Southeastern Conference football. The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Volunteers have historically battled on this day just as the crimson and orange colored foliage of fall have battled for visual supremacy in the tree lines of the two states.

Lately at Alabama, the victory cigars have been more of an expectation than a satisfaction with the Tide winning the last nine meetings between the two teams. And while Nick Saban’s teams have been a mainstay atop the Top 25, the Volunteers have fallen completely off the college football relevancy map, turning the Third Saturday of October into just another Saturday beat down by the Tide.

This year is different, however. For the first time since 1999, both teams will enter this contest ranked in the Top 10 in the country. Alabama enters the game holding down their customary #1 position atop the Top 25 poll while Tennessee’s Cardiac Kids come into the game ranked #9. For the first time in a very, very long time the Third Saturday in October has national implications and that makes this Saturday a pretty special day for college football fans – particularly those who love the pageantry and the passion of one of the most historic rivalries in all of college football. Let’s get it on, y’all!


Tennessee comes into this game with more of a limp than a swagger after losing in overtime to Texas A&M. Right now, volunteers are exactly what is needed in Knoxville. The Vols came into the Texas A&M game already missing four starters and, by the time the game was over, the Aggies added four more injuries to the insult of losing in overtime. Ouch. Rocky Top, indeed.

It appears the Vols may get starting running back Jalen Hurd and starting linebacker Darrin Kirkland back this week since both were seen practicing on Wednesday. However, the emergence of former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara has actually added a big play dimension that was missing from the Vols attack so we at the Lighthouse are overjoyed at the thought of Hurd taking away touches from Kamara.

Offensively, the Vols’ QB Josh Dobbs has come a long way in improving his accuracy but he still manages to make a few “oh no, what are you doing” throws thru the air. When he does take to the air, look for (#15) Jauan Jennings and (#6) Alvin Kamara to be the key targets. On the ground, it’s zone read, zone read, zone read with Dobbs, Hurd and Kamara each taking turns toting the rock.

Defensively, new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is blitzing like there’s no tomorrow. He plays straight man outside with a single high safety and then blitzes, blitzes and blitzes again.

In four of Tennessee’s five wins this season they had to come from 10+ points down in order to rescue the victory and they nearly did it once again against A&M last week. Are the Volunteers lucky or are they good? Or are they both?

Here’s what to watch for this week…

Alabama on Offense

The Tide comes rolling into Knoxville on an offensive high, leading the conference in scoring and generating 517 yards of offense last week against Arkansas. Jalen Hurts was superb against Arky, completing 13 of 17 throws for 253 yards and running for two touchdowns. The running game was clicking, as well, with Damien Harris going for 122 yards on only 13 carries and the Tide rushing for 264 yards as a team.

When we turned on the Tennessee vs Texas A&M game, the Lighthouse staff started high fiving as we saw the Aggies run the zone read at will down the beleaguered Vols’ throats. Alabama employs some of the same concepts in their own zone read running game so you’ll be tickled to know the Aggies rushed for 353 yards and four touchdowns against the Vols last week.

Let’s absorb that number again. 353 yards. I repeat: 353 yards! Rushing! Yowza.

By the time the game was over, Tennessee’s undermanned defense was down seven players. The pace of the Aggies’ offense and the fact that A&M got to run 99 plays against the beseiged Vols certainly wore down the Volunteer defense. I’d expect Lane Kiffin to press the gas pedal early this week to see how those Tennessee legs are responding to last week’s abuse.

Here are some good nuggets for you guys to keep an eye on this week…

Rushing Lanes O’Plenty: UT defensive coordinator Bob Shoop asks his defensive ends to fly upfield and generate pressure on the quarterback. This also forms a bit of containment against the run, as well. The problem for Shoop & Tennessee is that his ends go way too far up the field, opening a running lane that Tom Arnold and Rosanne Barr could waltz thru while holding hands and singing the national anthem. The Aggies gashed UT repeatedly by running their backs right thru these wide open spaces so look for Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough and Josh Jacobs to run off the inside hips of the Bama tackles while they shove the Tennessee ends further up the field.

Racing to the Edge: There were numerous times the Aggies simply beat Tennessee’s defense to the edge, resulting in big runs for QB Trevor Knight (110 yards) and RB Tryveon Williams (217 yards). Eventually, the Vols started flattening out in an effort to guard the flanks and that allowed Knight to cut the ball back inside and run untouched for a 62 yard touchdown run. Jalen Hurts should have a nice game running the football (as should anyone else who gets a carry).

One-on-ones in the Passing Game: Holy crap, Tennessee blitzed a ton against the Aggies. This left the A&M receivers locked up in one-on-one matchups with Tennessee’s back up corners (All SEC corner Cam Sutton is injured) and they coulda/woulda/shoulda had numerous catches down the sidelines on some fades and fly patterns. There is simply no way the Vol secondary can hold up in one-on-one matchups against Calvin Ridley, Ardarius Stewart, OJ Howard or Robert Foster. Look for some MASSIVE plays in the passing game down the field and down the sidelines this week by the Tide.

Matchup Nightmares: When A&M went three wide, the Vols either had a safety playing about 15 yards off the inside slot receiver or they left linebacker Colton Jumper to fend for himself against the likes of Speedy Noil and Christian Kirk. Jumper lost this battle time and time again and, honestly, it’s not fair of Shoop to ask Jumper to man up against the conference’s leading receiver (Kirk). Look for Kiffin to align Calvin Ridley on the inside slot and isolate him against the linebacker or against a safety who isn’t in the same area code at the snap.

What is Tennessee Thinking?: On five or six occasions, the Vols had all star defensive end Derrick Barnett in pass coverage – once he was even locked up on wide receiver Speedy Noil (and beaten badly) but the ball was underthrown and landed incomplete. Barnett is second in the country in career sacks so it’s dumbfounding to see him running with a wide receiver 30 yards down the field in man-to-man pass coverage! On the play, the Aggies motioned to an empty backfield by sending Williams out wide. The corner rotated to the boundary to cover the running back and Barnett had to slide out to the slot to cover Noil…man-to-man, no less! The Alabama staff will be able to scout this and will find ways to attack Barnett in coverage if UT continues to ask one of the nation’s top defensive ends to be a defensive back. So. Dumb.

Where’s the Beef: I did come away being very impressed with Tennessee’s defensive tackles as Shy Tuttle (#2) and Kahlil McKenzie (#99) played a very strong game in the interior of the Vols line. They are 311 and 325 lbs respectively so that’s a lot of beef to move on the inside of the line. This will be a critical matchup for Pierschbacher, Bozeman and Cotton (replacing Taylor – likely out with a concussion) in the middle of the Bama line.


  • Bad Linebacker: Tennessee linebacker Cortez McDowell (#20) is not a good football player. On three separate occasions, his job was to contain the edge but each time he jumped inside as the onslaught of blockers and backs came towards him. Honestly, he was awful. He may not be able to play this week so that’s not good news for Bama fans.
  • Bad Corner: Poor Malik Foreman (#13). If he’s not getting beaten for a long touchdown against Georgia, then he’s getting helped off the field after being flattened by an undersized back against Texas A&M. In his short time in the Tennessee secondary, Foreman has blown more coverages than Jenna Jameson has blown in her entire film career.
  • Slots of Fun: Tennessee’s secondary typically vacates the middle against a trips look with three wide receivers to one side. As we mentioned before, the safety or LB plays off of the inside slot receiver, leaving slants and in routes wide open across the middle. Wide. Open.
  • Motion: The fly sweep motion caused Tennessee’s secondary to rotate and sometimes caused confusion between their linebackers and safeties. A&M used the fly sweep going one way and then a zone read going in the opposite direction a few times with big success so look for Bama to do the same. They’ll generate a flow going in one direction and then counter back the other way with a run.
  • Man Down: With UT playing a ton of man to man in the secondary, the corners were absolutely no help and provided no run support against any edge rushes. When an Alabama back turns the corner, they should run a while before encountering anyone in the secondary.
  • Barnett: Barnett has 25 career sacks and has the ability to take an outside-in rush as well as turning the corner. Cam Robinson will have to beware of Barnett’s inside rush as it’s a killer.
  • Screens: With UT blitzing so much, look for Bama to pop a screen or two this week.
  • Bubbles: The Vols inexplicably lined up “2 over 2” or “3 over 3” throughout the first half against the Aggies and blew an assignment once when A&M motioned a receiver leaving a “2 over 3” situation. These are very winnable and attractive matchups for the Bama receivers as the Vol secondary isn’t the best tackling group we’ve seen.

Offensive Summary

Alabama honestly should have their way with this broken down version of the Tennessee Volunteer defense. Whether it’s running the football or taking advantage of favorable matchups in the UT secondary, Bama should be able to hang a bunch of points on the board this week.

Alabama on Defense

I love Pro Football Focus (PFF) – it may be the best thing ever invented for football geeks like us. For long time readers in this space, you know I’ve been touting Bama’s new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as being MUCH more aggressive than his predecessor Kirby Smart. We’ve been a big time fan of Pruitt’s aggression and now, thanks to PFF, we have the stats to prove we were right about him!

The Arkansas Game Review will come out later this week but, during the Arkansas game, we noted how incredibly aggressive the Tide was in sending blitzes at the Arkansas QB. In the previous week, we also noted the huge number of blitzes Pruitt called against the Cats newbie QB, as well. At this point, PFF and the Lighthouse completely agree – Jeremy Pruitt is one VERY aggressive defensive coordinator, especially as compared to Kirby Smart. Here are a few stats to know going into the UT game (thanks to PFF):

  • Pruitt blitzed 71% of the time against Kentucky when they needed more than 10 yards after first down.
  • Bama blitzed on 48% of the Arkansas dropbacks (29 of 61)
  • In the last three games, Bama is blitzing 49.5% of dropbacks.
  • Kirby Smart blitzed on just 19.5% of dropbacks in 2015.

Kirby Smart believed in allowing his front four to generate pressure while allowing seven defenders to constrict passing lanes down to the size of the eye of a needle. However, Jeremy Pruitt believes in bringing an extra rusher to allow pass rushing beasts like Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson to enjoy having one-on-one matchups and generate pressure.

Blitzing and aggression are wonderful tools. The added pass rush pressure forces the ball out quickly and that limits the amount of time the secondary has to stay in coverage. This allows Bama’s defensive backs to jump routes and play extremely aggressively in coverage. The down side, of course, is that it exposes the DBs when they lose their one-on-one matchups in coverage and the results can lead to giving up 400+ yards to Arkansas and Ole Miss. However, in those very same games where the Tide secondary was exposed, that same aggressive style also led to multiple touchdowns by the defense in each game.

This week, the Lighthouse is hoping Jeremy Pruitt will channel his inner Kirby Smart by deciding to just rush four and play coverage. Here’s why…and what else to watch for…

Dobbs as a Runner: Josh Dobbs has the ability to escape the pocket and run for extra yardage. If the Tide is blitzing, this could allow Dobbs to escape pressure, break containment and make big plays with his feet. We’d prefer to see a sprinkling of blitzes that target stopping the run this week rather than the all out assault we saw last week.

Dobbs as a Passer: Josh Dobbs has improved as a passer but he’s still missing wide open throws from time to time. Additionally, Dobbs often overlooks the linebackers in the middle of the field so we think the best approach to defending the Tennessee offense will be to play coverage and force Dobbs to prove he can be accurate with the football. If Reuben Foster plays, we are calling for an interception – go get it Reuben!

Jump Balls: Tennessee has beaten a lot of teams thru the air by getting 6’3 Jauan Jennings in one-on-one situations and simply throwing him a jump ball. In these situations, Dobbs doesn’t have to be a great passer – he just needs to elevate the ball and allow Jennings to go get it. Bama must take this play away from the Vol offense with a safety over the top. The Tide corners have given up their fair share of jump balls this week so we hope Jennings doesn’t get many opportunities to make a play.

Alvin: It sure hurts to see former Tide running back Alvin Kamara playing for the Vols. Kamara has transformed his body into a 215 lb stud who can beat you as a back or beat you as a receiver out of the backfield. Frankly, Kamara is sooooo much better than Jalen Hurd and he gives the Vols a game breaking dimension every time he touches the ball. Last week against A&M, Kamara was a one man Wrecking Crew, rushing for 127 yards and catching eight passes for 161 yards. Kamara scored three touchdowns and led the dramatic comeback that forced overtime. We are hoping Jalen Hurd plays this week and takes touches away from the electric Kamara. FYI – Kamara is also the Vols’ leading receiver with 20 catches on the season.

Playing it Safe: Tennessee typically spends the first half of the game trying to score without asking Dobbs to carry the football. Then UT typically spends the second half of the game riding him like a rented pony as they try to mount a furious comeback.

Oh Line: Earlier in the year, the Volunteer line leaked like a sieve and that’s what I expected to see against the Aggies fearsome edge rushers. However, even after losing their starting center to a concussion, the Vol line acquitted themselves pretty well in the game. Even so, the stats show the Aggies generated four sacks (Dobbs held the ball too long on two of these) and eight tackles for loss so all isn’t completely well along the Tennessee line just yet.

Empty Sets: EVERY time Tennessee lines up in an empty set (no running backs in the backfield), one of two things will happen. 90% of the time, Dobbs takes two little steps, eyeballs one receiver and throws the ball very quickly. The other 10% of the time, it’s a slow developing QB draw. When UT goes empty, the Tide should rush four and ask their linemen to concentrate on batting down passes at the line of scrimmage. In the secondary, we want the Tide DBs to come up tight and eliminate the short throws. FYI – it makes ZERO sense to blitz this look because the ball comes out way too quickly.


  • Checkdowns, Screens and Flares: Alabama needs to be in tight man to man defense against Kamara whenever he leaves the backfield. Kamara leads UT in receiving and his eight catches out of the backfield last week were death blows to the Aggies. The Vols do a really sweet little slip screen or one man screen that gets Kamara into open spaces. Reuben Foster (assuming he’s cleared and ready to play, which he should be) and Dion Hamilton will have to be up to the task this week.
  • Physical Runners: Dobbs, Kamara and Hurd all have an innate ability to break tackles. Bama will have to wrap up and bring additional defenders to gang tackle these boys this week.
  • Rush Four: Tennessee’s OL is ranked 61st out of 65 teams in pass blocking efficiency rating so Alabama can afford to just rush four in this matchup. UT tackles Brett Kendrick and Chance Hall have allowed a combined 52 pressures on the season so Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson should have a field day.
  • John Kelly: Kelly (#4) was very impressive against the Aggies but he did put the ball on the ground twice last week. With Jalen Hurd expected to play, Kelly should have a minimal role this week and that’s good news for Bama.
  • Formations: Tennessee often lines up in the exact same formation as the previous play. However, unlike when Kiffin does it, the Vols typically run a different play from that same formation nearly every single time. So, if they line up with trips right and throw a bubble screen the first time then the next play will feature trips right but they will run a zone read instead.
  • Unblocked Ends: Tennessee loves to leave the opposing defensive ends unblocked so look for Bama’s defensive ends to blow up quite a few mesh points in the backfield. Alabama has been attacking with their ends any time they are left unblocked so look for this tasty trend to continue Saturday.
  • Underthrows – Dobbs habitually underthrows the deep ball so look for Bama’s safeties to get a pick if one hangs up too long. Look for a couple of pass interference penalties against the Tide, as well. They won’t be able to help it…
  • Fly Guy – Tennessee likes to get the ball into the hands of Tyler Byrd (#10) on the fly sweeps. He fast! He got five touches last week for 71 yards.
  • Jalen Hurd – Alabama is built to stop big guys like Jalen Hurd so we welcome the thought of him playing in this game. It’s guys like Kamara that pose the tougher matchups for Bama and Kamara is the kind of player who can go the distance at any time. Meanwhile, Hurd is a guy who can get you 4 or 5 yards. Welcome back Jalen!


Tennessee uses a lot of formations with their H-backs and tight ends aligned in multiple ways. They even showed a pistol formation with an H-back by the tackle and Kamara next to Dobbs – essentially forming a four man backfield! On the play, Dobbs handed the ball to Kamara each time but he then carried out an option fake with the pistol back. UT shows a good bit of eye candy but at the end of the day they primarily do two things: run the zone read with Dobbs and throw quick passes out of an empty set. Bama has plenty of experience defending this so our only other fear is checking Kamara out of the backfield as Saban’s Achilles heel in blown coverages has always been backs and tight ends.

Bama on Special Teams

Alabama checks in third in the conference in punting, averaging 46.5 yards per punt. Tennessee is ranked 7th with a 42.51 yard average. Combine that with the fact that Alabama is #1 in punt return average (UT is #9) and you should see Alabama have a decided advantage in field position this week.

Evan Berry is a HUGE threat as a kick returner so the Lighthouse staff would encourage kicking the ball away from him if at all possible (which Saban will not do). Berry averages over 24 yards per return (4th in the SEC) but is a threat to break one every time he touches the ball. Bama averages just over 20 yards per return, good for 8th in the SEC.

Alabama and Tennessee both come into the contest hitting just over 70% of their field goal attempts this season. However, Tennessee has yet to hit one from over 40 yards this season. Griffith has hit two kicks over 40 yards and has the leg to hit from beyond 50. Slight advantage to Alabama.

Final Thoughts and Score Prediction

This season, Butch Jones and the Tennessee Vols are likely responsible for a massive increase in the sale of Jack Daniels and a dramatic increase in cardiac arrests across the state. Nothing has come easy for Tennessee this year as they’ve had to rally from over 10 points down against Appalachian State, Florida, Virginia Tech and Georgia. Not surprisingly, the Vols haven’t made it easy on themselves in these games – the Vols lead the nation in fumbles with 21 in just six games and committed SEVEN turnovers against Texas A&M.

For Bama fans, there are two ways to look at Tennessee’s comeback wins. On the one hand, you can look at all of these gaffes by Tennessee and realize they’ve had to be incredibly lucky to come into this game with a 5-1 record. On the flip side, if the Vols ever put together a clean game, they can truly be a handful.

Alabama’s running game should move the ball against the Vols while the Bama defensive line should own the line of scrimmage.  On tape, the X’s and O’s matchup looks very heavily slanted towards the Crimson Tide.

Since Tennessee is coming off an extremely physical and heartbreaking overtime loss on the road at Texas A&M, it’s hard for the Lighthouse staff to imagine the Volunteers will be able to muster up their “A” game on this Third Saturday in October. When you combine that with the decimated roster, six straight weeks of exhausting games and the players gleefully eyeing their bye week next week, we think the Tide should roll on Saturday.

Final Score: Alabama 41 Tennessee 20

W2W4 Alabama vs Arkansas

Coming into the season, the Arkansas game was one of two key matchups the Lighthouse had a great deal of interest in. We’ve talked at great length about the Tide moving to a smaller, quicker and more athletic defense and that’s been a huge asset against the spread offenses of today’s game. However, Arky doesn’t play spready spready fun ball. No, Arkansas likes to line up as many tight ends and fullbacks as they are legally allowed to have and run that pigskin right down their opponents’ throats! Big man on big man. Or big hog on big elephant, if you will.

So when we turned on the tape of Arkansas playing Texas A&M, we settled in to watch yet another Bret Bielema “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense. But, 371 passing yards later, we feel a whole lot better about having to man up against this year’s Razorback team.

The usually massive and stellar Hog offensive line has undergone quite a bit of change and now they are young, average and inexperienced. Their center has moved to right guard and then back to center. Their left guard and current right guard have each started just five games while their woeful right tackle has just started twice. The little Aggies completely owned the line of scrimmage in this game, stuffing ten – count ‘em, TEN – Razorback goal line plays in the game!!! TEN! On Arkansas’ tenth attempt it was 4th & 1 from the one yard line and Bielema ran a reverse for a loss of four – clearly anything but smash mouth football.  Who are these guys from Fayetteville?????

In this really bizarro matchup between the Aggies and Arkys, it was Arkansas who successfully passed for 371 yards (and nearly got their QB killed in the process) while it was the Aggies who dominated on the ground, rushing for 366 yards. Air Bielema and Ground Sumlin – just what you would have expected, right? Well, here’s what we expect to see this week…

Alabama on Offense

Lord have mercy if there was ever a matchup pitting Alabama’s strength versus an opponent’s weakness it’s this week’s matchup against the Hogs. All of Texas A&M’s rushing yardage came off of the classic zone read stuff that Bama has been running effectively this season.  Arkansas plays in a base 4-2 defense and rarely blitzes. Their linebackers and safeties are not setting any speed records anytime soon and Texas A&M exploited this repeatedly on their way to 366 yards rushing. That number is still mind boggling to me, by the way…366?

A&M spread the Hogs out with trips to one side or two receivers to each side. This split the safeties outside of the hashmarks and left only the two Piggy linebackers in the middle. The Aggies then ran motion (a fly sweep or motioning the running back out to the flat) before the snap and Arkansas chose to counter that by flaring out one of their linebackers into the boundary. This left Arkansas with only four down lineman and one linebacker to take on five offensive linemen, a running back AND an running quarterback. Texas A&M would also sometimes pull their guard and center which allowed them to attack three piggies with four Aggies. The result? Bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon! BACON! Knight ran for 157 yards. Williams ran for 153. These two Aggies gained 310 yards on just 22 carries!!!! What do we call that? BACON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s what else we noticed in film study…

Twilight Zone (Read): Texas A&M gashed the Razorbacks so badly by the end of the game the Hogs defense bled out like a stuck pig. Look for Jalen Hurts to combo with Joshua Jacobs and Damien Harris on zone reads that pop for big, big yardage. The key will be to watch Alabama’s formation and motions. If Alabama can remove one of the Hogs two linebackers in the same manner that A&M did then Bama will score at will. FYI – once A&M broke thru up the middle, the two Arky safeties were too slow to converge and make the tackle.  Touchdown runs of 48, 42, 33 and 28 yards went right between the safeties.

Top Gun: Look for Alabama to continue taking shots down the field in this game. The Hogs play a two deep safety look and refuse to bring them down into the box. This tightens the throwing windows on everything 20 yards and in. However, the Aggies ran a fly pattern from their own 5 yard line and the receiver blew by the corner and the safety. The Hog safeties are very slow so they play a ton of zone to keep them from getting exposed in man coverage. But, you can still beat them deep as Calvin Ridley did last year to open up a tight game.

Crash: The Razorbacks crash their defensive ends down on nearly every zone read and this opens up significant running lanes for the quarterback. It also allows Bama’s five blockers to ignore the end and get out to the two linebackers, which should also help open up some running lanes.

I Spy: Arkansas used #51 (Ellis) to spy Trevor Knight – clearly that didn’t work. Personally, I think spying a QB is useless. The majority of the time the spy is neither in coverage nor rushing the passer – they are just standing there waiting for the QB to get flushed from the pocket. Useless.

Beat It: If Alabama can isolate OJ Howard or Jacobs on #51 in coverae, it should be a completion. Ellis can’t hang in man to man coverage.

Beasts of Burden: I really liked the work done by Arkansas defensive tackles Jeremiah Ledbetter (6’3, 280) and Taiwan Johnson (6’2, 284) on the interior of the Arkansas line. Early in the game, these two seniors were controlling the interior but, as the game progressed, they seemed to tire out and lose their effectiveness. Arkansas isn’t deep so I think you’ll see some “fastball” this week from Bama.

She’s Tight: The Arkansas zone really didn’t give up much in the passing game as the throwing lanes were pretty tight. A&M found some success on deep in routes behind the corners and in front of the safeties so look for this type of route to be completed a couple of times. I also think bubble screens and slants will be successful here since the linebackers and safeties play way off the slot receivers.


  • Safety Dance: Arkansas safety Josh Liddell (28) had a terrible game against the Aggies. Missed tackles, poor coverage – you name it. Look for Lane Kiffin to isolate him in any way shape or form.
  • Defensive End: The Hogs would sometimes push their defensive ends way, way outside of the formation – almost to the slot. This essentially eliminated the DE from providing run support.
  • Eight is Enough: A Razorback nightmare would be to have to commit their safeties into run support. This would expose their corners and open up Pandora’s box of fun in the passing game.
  • Same as It Ever Was: Nearly two thirds of my notes seem to say “zone read, five on five blocking – big gain for the Aggies.”  This should be the bread and butter of the Alabama game plan.
  • False Starts: Alabama really needs to take the crowd out of the game early or else you’ll get to see the Tide in long yardage situations resulting from false starts.
  • Total Defense: Arkansas is ranked 52nd in Total Defense.
  • Rushing Defense: Arkansas is ranked 73rd in Rushing Defense.
  • Passing Defense: Arkansas is ranked 46th in Passing Defense.

Final Thoughts

If Alabama struggles running the football then this game suddenly becomes interesting. The way the Aggies gashed the Hogs repeatedly with the zone read, you should expect Alabama to have similar success. If Hurts is forced to pass, he’s going to have a tough time as this is the type of pass defense that could give him trouble. Zone coverages force a QB to look for windows and open spots instead of just eyeballing one defender. Bubble screens and deep shots should be available but anything in between may be a little scary.

Alabama on Defense

As we mentioned in the opening few paragraphs, this is not your father’s mother’s brother’s Arkansas team. Heck, this isn’t even your little sister’s Arkansas team. These Hogs are ranked 48th nationally in rushing offense and 55th nationally in passing offense so you can see that they feature a pretty balanced attack these days. In throwing for 371 yards, we gained an appreciation for the skill guys at wide receiver and tight end, so they have the ability to make some plays in the passing game.

But, what makes this Hogs team so different from Bielema’s other teams is the lack of a dominant offensive line. These guys are young, inexperienced and are certainly not the big road graders you are probably accustomed to seeing in Fayetteville. Additionally, the linemates have played a bit of musical chairs so even the little bit of experience they have isn’t with one another so their offense as a whole has struggled as a result.

Here’s what we saw when we watched the film of the Hogs attacking the Aggie defense…

Formations: One of Alabama’s biggest challenges will be to line up correctly against the Arkansas formations. They use a variety of different formations:  two tight ends, a fullback, three wide receivers, shotgun, I formation and anything else they can think of. They motion out of this and try to cause the defense to be outnumbered on one side or the other.

Tough Enough: I came away being VERY impressed with Arkansas QB Austin Allen. This dude deserves the Medal of Honor or a Purple Heart or something after getting battered, covered, chunked, dunked, sliced and diced against the Aggies. The only thing missing from this piñata was the hemorrhaging of candy. Yet, Allen kept dealing. This guy has nerves of steel and delivered the mail every time he knew he was going to get an Aggie helmet tattooed into his sternum. Very impressive kid.

Delay of Game: Arkansas seems to prefer slow, deliberate handoffs and this creates opportunities for tackles for loss.

Right Round: The Hogs’ right tackle Brian Wallace (#60) will be making just his third start and if his first start (against A&M) is any indication, Bama’s edge rushers should have a field day. He bad.

Eating Sprinkles: Arkansas has a tight end (#83) named Jeremy Sprinkle and he’s an outstanding tight end. I love what they do with him lined up as an inline blocker. Sprinkle always chips on the defensive end before going out for a pass and sometimes he even holds his block for a count or two before releasing. Sprinkles will be a very difficult matchup for the Tide linebackers.

Numbers Game: The Aggies oftentimes lined up 9 men across the line of scrimmage and simply outnumbered the Hogs front line. Look for Alabama to threaten blitzes off the edge and thru the A/B gaps in an effort to disrupt the Razorback blocking schemes.

Another Brick in the Wall: This was simply amazing to watch but Arkansas had 10 (TEN!) goal line plays inside the two yard line and scored on NONE of them. The Aggies put 10 men on the line of scrimmage and blew up every single play Bielema dialed up. Inside plays were blown up. Outside plays resulted in tackles for loss. Passing plays ended with pressured throw aways from Allen. It was amazing to watch. Arky had three shots initially and, after a pass interference, they had three more shots from the 2. DENIED. Later, they got down there again and took four whacks at it with the same result. NADA!

Sledgehammer: Remember, this Tide unit is smaller and faster than it’s predecessors so it will be interesting to see how the Tide holds up to a power rushing attack. Josh Frazier was underwhelming last week at tackle so Tomlinson and Payne will have to get it done themselves. Look for Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson to man the outside end positions with Tim Williams only coming on in pass rushing situations. However, if Bama uses a 3-4 (hint: they will), we want to see if Williams is out there as an OLB. This would put both Allen and Williams on the field but neither is really suited to hold the point of attack against the run. This is our favorite matchup and W2W4 of the week!


  • Arkansas center Jake Raulerson got shoved around by the Aggies. Da’Ron Payne should have a good day.
  • Look for the Razorbacks to run between the tackles. Each time they tried to get to the edge their line was slow and couldn’t get their blocks while the Aggies outraced them to the sidelines.
  • If you see #44 lined up outside and he comes in motion towards the line, he’s blocking down on the defensive end and calling the Hogs to run towards him.
  • I have several notes that say “zero push from offensive line” so look for Bama to dominate up front.
  • Just to reiterate, a Bret Bielema team had ten shots at the Aggies from inside the two yard line and came away with three points. That’s just mystifying to me.
  • Keon Hatcher (4), Drew Morgan (80), and Jared Cornelius (1) all looked to be very solid receivers. In particular, Cornelius was extremely impressive after the catch. Hatcher (6’2) is their jump ball guy so look for Humphrey’s vertical to be tested once again by #4.
  • Running back Rawleigh Wiliams III gets a lot of publicity but, to us, he’s just a guy. This isn’t Jonathan Williams or Alex Collins. He’s a 220 lb load but he doesn’t have the wiggle, power or speed of the former Hog backs.
  • Austin Allen’s abilty to hang in the pocket and deliver throws is impressive. With all the pressure, he was still able to get rid of the ball – only taking one sack during the game. However, there were four separate occasions where he either threw passes he shouldn’t have or the pressure impacted the velocity/accuracy on his throws. Look for the Tide secondary to come down with at least a couple of picks Saturday.
  • Arky likes crossing routes and flooding zones. If Allen is given time, he’s very accurate with the football. Honestly, he’s the most impressive pure QB I think Bama has played this season.
  • Arkansas biggest rushing plays were when the Aggies misaligned their defense too heavily against the strong side of the formations.

Final Thoughts

We expect Alabama’s front six to dominate the game up front and we think QB Austin Allen will end up getting whacked to the point where he’s forced to leave the game. Honestly, it’s a medical miracle how he survived the A&M game. I’m interested to see just how much Tim Williams plays on Saturday since he’s really playing more of his pass rushing role this season. But, when he’s in, look out. He may set a record for single game sacks if Arkansas falls behind.

Alabama on Special Teams

Whether it’s Xavian Marks or Eddie Jackson deep, Bama has weapons in the punt return game. Bama is currently ranked 6th in the country in average yards per return (19.67!). Meanwhile, Arkansas checks in at 48th in the country (9.64) in punt return average.  Advantage Tide.

Bama is averaging 22.1 yards per kick return, good for 56th in the nation, while Arkansas is a woeful 116th in the country averaging just 17.18 yards per return.  Advantage Tide.

Arkansas actually is ranked tenth in the country in Net Punting with a 42.76 yard average. But, Bama is right behind them with a 41.44 average – good for 18th in the country.  Even.

Lastly, Adam Griffith checks in hitting 8 of 11 field goals while Arkansas has just hit 4 of 6 (none of them over 40 yards).  Advantage Bama.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

Granted it was only one game of film study but Alabama’s strengths on offense appear to be Arkansas’ weakness on defense and Bama’s strengths on defense look to be downright lethal in this game. Offensively, Alabama should be able to run the zone read and also be able to take advantage of slow footed safeties and linebackers in the passing game. Defensively, we don’t see Arkansas being able to run the ball so Austin Allen is going to have numerous opportunities to see the Goodyear blimp while he’s laying on his back.

Final Score: Bama 38 Arkansas 13