TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (4-3)
at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (7-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -27.5, Total: 51.5
Tennessee will look to pull off an upset for the second consecutive week as it heads to Tuscaloosa for a showdown with a heavily-favored No. 1 Alabama squad.
Despite its mediocre 4-3 SU record, Tennessee has looked quite good against SEC opponents lately with two consecutive ATS wins versus ranked teams. First the Vols battled Georgia in an eventual OT loss and followed that up with an upset of South Carolina as 7.5-point underdogs. Alabama has now won 11 games in a row SU dating back to last year and is now 3-1 ATS against conference foes in 2013. Most of that is because the Crimson Tide have the nationís stingiest defense that allows a miniscule 9.7 PPG. Recently, Alabama has owned Tennessee, winning the past six games SU (5-1 ATS), with the past three wins all coming by exactly 31 points. But historically the Volunteers have actually had some success in Tuscaloosa, going 8-2 ATS against the Crimson Tide since 1992.
Can Alabama roll past a quality Tennessee opponent on Saturday? For the answer, connect to College Football Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 regular season and bowl season. The four experts are a combined 58% ATS (82-60-5) in college football Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary who is 72% ATS (13-5-1) in college football Best Bets over the past six weeks and 64% ATS (14-8-1) this year. StatFox Brian is 9-3 ATS in the past two weeks and 61% ATS (20-13-1) in Best Bets this season, while StatFox Dave is 57% ATS (26-20-1) and StatFox Scott is 54% ATS (22-19-2) for yearly CFB Best Bets.
Tennesseeís offense is nothing to rave about, though RB Rajion Neal is amid a strong season in which he is averaging 5.3 YPC on 132 carries with eight touchdowns. Over his past three contests, heís averaging 131.3 rushing yards per game. The Vols also have a good change of pace back in Marlin Lane (335 rush yards, 5.9 YPC), who has added four touchdowns on the season. QB Justin Worley runs the show, but isnít very efficient, completing only 55.8% of his passes. Heís thrown for 1,119 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He didnít throw a pick in the games against Georgia and South Carolina though, one of the big reasons for the Volunteersí impressive performances in those games. Defensively this unit leaves a lot to be desired, giving up 4.8 YPC on the ground and 7.2 yards per pass attempt through the air. The good news about the Vols' pass defense is that opponents have completed only 52.0% of their passes against them.
Though Alabamaís defense is what makes the program truly elite, that is no slight to their prolific offense. QB AJ McCarron has had a phenomenal senior season, completing 69.2% of his passes for 1,587 yards (8.7 YPA). Impressively, he has 14 TD tosses and only three picks this year, and he completely destroyed Tennessee last year by completing 17-of-22 passes for 306 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT. He is an expert at distributing the ball to his backs, receivers and tight ends, with eight players already having more than 100 receiving yards this season, and nine players having caught touchdown passes. Setting up the passing game are two rushers who both have seven scores already this season in RBs T.J. Yeldon (657 yards on 6.6 YPC) and Kenyan Drake (402 yards on 8.2 YPC). Yeldon tore up Tennessee for 129 yards on 15 carries (8.6 YPC) with 2 TD in last year's romp. Opposing QBs are completing just 50.0% of their passes against the Alabama defense while gaining a poor 3.3 YPC on the ground.