After A Huge Loss, What’s Next For The Tennesse Vols?

The Tennessee Vols fought hard and almost pulled out the win last year versus the Alabama Crimson Tide last season. But Alabama was eventually able to make more plays than Tennessee and win the game 19-14. The result of the game went towards Alabama, but there was some encouraging signs for the Vols that came out of that one. They played stifling defense against Heisman winner Derrick Henry and matching the physical play of Alabama as well. The thinking going to this season was that everyone would come back and Tennessee would have an even better shot to beat Alabama. Well, all those thoughts went out the window when Alabama came to Knoxville and flexed their muscles on the Vols. The game was close at the beginning, but Tennessee eventually faded as Alabama got stronger and finished the game. The Tide rolled 49-10 and again showed everyone that they are the best team in the nation. And just like that, all the optimism that Tennessee was ready to take it to the next level got quieted.  The Alabama game that was once a rivalry has turned into ownership courtesy of the Crimson Tide. So, where do the Vols go from here?

The season is not over for the Vols, but if this game showed them anything, it is they cannot keep playing from behind. Over and over again, the Vols have fallen behind only to come back and win most of those games. Against Texas A&M they fell just short after taking the game to overtime. But against a team the quality of Alabama, the Vols were digging themselves an early grave. The offense has been the culprit most of the time. It just seems like they are asleep at the wheel only to have the light come on at halftime or just after half. Well, in this game the light did not come on early and never came on to begin with. The And the big reason for that is that Josh Dobbs and the Tennessee running game was never really able to get going. The Alabama front seven were swarming the line of scrimmage and they actually are better prepared than year's past to take on mobile quarterbacks with all the primetime athletes they have. This game showed that Tennessee still has a long way to go with their offensive line. They were dominated up front and there was absolutely nothing they could do about it. And as a result, the Tennessee offense was just stymied all game long.

But just like the offense deserves some blame, so does the defense. The Alabama offense was ran by a true freshman, Jalen Hurts. The youngster from Texas has given the Tide a mobile quarterback that they have had only once in Blake Sims. And with him, the Alabama offense was more potent than it had been in a while. Tennessee's defense gets to practice against an offense similar to this one in practice. But the big difference in practice and playing the games is that Tennessee could not adjust and line up to take on the plays Alabama was running. Sure, you could blame it on key players being injured defensively (especially linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Darrin Kirkland Jr), but the Vols had all week to prepare for what they were going to see. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to stop it nor be in the right positions to make plays. And even when they were in the right positions, it seemed like they were a step slow or missed the tackle when in position to make the play. Hurts was magical with his ball-handling and the Alabama running backs were their usual selves running around, over and by the Tennessee defenders all game long. Aside from one surge defensively on a sack and fumble from Hurts and a batted pass for an interception, Tennessee had no answers for Alabama offensively. And Hurts was doing pretty much anything he wanted within the Alabama offense.

The last two games have undoubtedly taken the steam out of the Vols season. But the good thing for them is the way their schedule lines up, they can still go 10-2 this season (after a bye week, the Vols have South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt left on their schedule). And if the Vols are able to go 10-2 and the Florida Gators lose one more game in the conference, then Tennessee would be headed to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta, Georgia. Who would the Vols face if they make it to the SEC Title game? Well, it could be Alabama. And of course, that would be a huge mountain to climb. But after this beating they took on Saturday, they can look at that potential rematch as a second beatdown or a chance for redemption. The choice would be theirs.

Jalen Hurts

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