Alabama may have quarterback Bryce Young available when the No. 3 Crimson Tide returns to Rocky Top to meet No. 6 Tennessee. Young, who missed last week's win vs. Texas A&M with a sprained shoulder is "expected to start" vs. the Vols, ESPN's Pete Thamel said Saturday morning on "College GameDay." The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will play for the Crimson Tide if all goes well in pregame warmups, Alabama coach Nick Saban told on Friday.
With or without Young, this edition of the "Third Saturday in October" rivalry game is much different than those of the last decade-and-a-half, however. Both teams will enter the matchup undefeated for the first time since 1989, and it's only the third time during the Volunteers' 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide that they have even been ranked at the time of kickoff.
The Crimson Tide are fresh off of their biggest scare of the season, a 24-20 win over Texas A&M last week that ended with the Aggies' potential game-winning pass from the 2-yard line falling incomplete. The Volunteers are riding high after dominating then-No. 25 LSU 40-13 in Death Valley to set up what will be a wild scene in Knoxville, Tennessee.
What should you expect on Saturday afternoon? Let's preview the SEC on CBS Game of the Week and make picks straight up and against the spread, and be sure to follow Alabama at Tennessee live scores and updates throughout the game.
How to watch Alabama vs. Tennessee live
Alabama vs. Tennessee: Need to know
"Bryce Young watch" continues: Saban said earlier this week that Young, his star quarterback and the reigning Heisman winner, can take the field after missing last weekend's game with a sprained shoulder. Now it appears Saban might get his wish after he told Dodd that Young has made a considerable amount of progress this week and will attempt to play vs. the Vols if .
If he isn't cleared, it'll be redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe who takes the snaps for another game. Milroe threw three touchdown pass last weekend but also fumbled twice and tossed one interception. Saban wasn't exactly thrilled with Milroe's performance.
Anxiety at home vs. an unranked opponent is much different than anxiety on the road in front of more than 100,000 fans against the No. 6 team in the country. If Young can't go, or even if he isn't 100%, Alabama's outlook will change dramatically.
Tillman back?: Tennessee's offense ranks seventh in the nation in passing at 340.4 yards per game, and a lot of that has been done without its best receiver. Cedric Tillman had "tight rope" ankle surgery in September after just three games, but the senior entered the season as quarterback Hendon Hooker's top target. He racked up 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns, and could re-join Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy in what will be the most challenge passing attack that Alabama's secondary has faced all year.
"Cedric's doing good," Heupel said Monday. "This is part of the reason why he had the surgery, is to try to be back for this one. He's continuing to progress over the weekend, so we'll monitor him. At the end of the day, like I said last week, our medical team and Cedric will make the right decision for him, now and in the future, too."
Alabama's best defense against this crew will likely be a ferocious pass rush led by EDGE Will Anderson Jr.
How do you stop Jahmyr Gibbs?: The star running back for the Crimson Tide has emerged as the focal point of the offense after Young's injury. He rushed for 206 yards (including two carries of 70 or more yards) in the win over Arkansas and 154 more last week against the Aggies. Whether Young or Milroe gets the carries, it's imperative that Tennessee stops him in order to give itself a chance.
"He's explosive, so you know they are going to try to find ways to get the ball in his hands," Heupel said. "In the run game, you are best to not let him get started. If he does, he has the ability to take it the distance. He has good vision and pace behind the line of scrimmage. When he sees a hole, he is able to hit it. He does a really good job of making people miss, too. He have to bottle him up in the run game, and then when they use him in the pass game too, you have got to do a great job at taking him away and matching him out."
Tennessee has given up just 2.79 yards per carry and 89.2 yards per game on the ground. It'll be strength-on-strength on Rocky Top this weekend.
Alabama vs. Tennessee prediction, picks
Take Tennessee and the points, but you might want to consider a "money line sprinkle" on this one. Even if Young plays, it's unlikely that he will be 100%. If Alabama's offense bogs down, or even if it has just a few empty possessions, the Vols will have a chance to win this one outright. That is exactly what I think will happen. Hooker will make a massive Heisman Trophy statement in what will be the biggest win for Tennessee in a generation. Prediction: Tennessee (+7.5)
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