Tennessee gets blasted again 45-7
No. 1 Alabama cruised to a 45-17 win over Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the rivalry known as the "Third Saturday in October." The Tide's offense was efficient, the defense was staggering, and the Volunteers had nothing for a Crimson Tide crew that now heads into the bye week 8-0 prior to taking on LSU at home.
What did we learn during the beatdown in T-Town? Here are four things to take away from it.
1. Alabama's defense is motivated by perfection: It's coach-speak, but it's true -- Alabama's biggest enemy is complacency. To combat it, coach Nick Saban's "process" emphasizes working every day to get better and play as flawless as possible. Its defense played close to perfect against the Vols. With the first-teamers in for the majority of the first three quarters, the Vols managed just 88 total yards, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was either under pressure or getting hit on nearly every play and the coach Butch Jones' crew was held out of the end zone offensively.
Whether it was Da'Ron Payne and a host of other defensive linemen, linebacker Levi Wallace or a linebacker crew led by Rashaan Evans, seemingly every play was disrupted behind the line. This is exactly what Saban wanted to see. He fears complacency. He fears stagnation. This defense is neither complacent or stagnant. The combination of great coaching and a roster stacked with talent makes this unit the college football equivalent of the "Hunger Games." Despite some early-season injuries and roster turnover from last year, this unit keeps Alabama in its comfort zone every single week.
2. Damien Harris should be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race: Sure, Penn State's Saquon Barkley has been sensational, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor has as well, and a host of quarterbacks are vying for Heisman Trophy love. Why not Harris? The sophomore running back for the Crimson Tide tacked on another touchdown -- his 10th of the year -- and 72 yards in the win. No, those aren't video game statistics, which typically impress Heisman voters. But he is a video game cheat code.
One look at Alabama this year, and it's clear that Harris is the true heartbeat of the Tide offense. Sure, there are other running backs including Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris and Joshua Jacobs; but Harris has emerged as the true No. 1 back that sets the tone for the Tide on a weekly basis. Look beyond the numbers. If the Crimson Tide needed Harris to run for 200 yards per game, he would. Because of him, they don't. That deserves more than just cursory Heisman recognition.
3. Tennessee's defense deserves a little bit of love: Yes, it got out of hand in the second half. The reason it didn't happen sooner was because of a Tennessee defense that played its tail off and did all that it could to keep the Vols in the game in the first. While it won't matter in the long run and will have no impact in the SEC East race now that the Vols have fallen to 0-4 in the SEC, Daniel Bituli's pick-six produced the first Tennessee touchdown in 28 days (and 12+ quarters) midway through the third, and the Vol secondary limited the impact of quarterback Jalen Hurts through the air.
It's a moral victory, sure, but in a season of turmoil, the Vol defense came to play early and gave the offense every chance to stay in the game. Because of a lack of identity, the Vols couldn't.
4. The fate of Butch Jones is sealed: The status of Jones has been a hotly debated topic over the last month, and Saturday's lackluster performance will only seal the fate of the coach on the hottest seat in the country. The misadventures inside the red zone that have plagued the Vols all year continued on Saturday, including in the fourth quarter when Guarantano threw a pick on 4th and Goal from the 5-yard line. The only reason they were there was due to a false start when they were on the 1-yard line.
To compound issues, the Vols showed even more lack of discipline on Saturday -- including on Bituli's pick-six when Rashaan Gaulden gave Tide fans the double bird while still down 28-7. There's nothing more needed. Jones isn't the man to run the program. After years of recruiting success and a wide open window in the SEC East, the Vols have regressed to a cellar dweller in a bad division despite a roster loaded with NFL talent.
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