SEC Spotlight On Rocky Top

The SEC spotlight will shine on Rocky Top this weekend as 5-2 (2-2 in league games) Alabama invades No. 7 (or 8 depending on which poll you like) Tennessee (5-1, 1-1).

Overall, it’s a ho-hum lineup for SEC teams, with no other league team facing a ranked opponent. But there’s enough intensity, rivalry and drama in the game in Knoxville for an entertaining Saturday.

The Tide and Vols first locked horns on Nov. 18, 1901, and after four quarters of play, nothing had been decided with that first meeting ending in a 0-0 tie and 2,000 fans on the field at Tuscaloosa fighting. The two teams have met on the third Saturday in October every year since 1928 except 1943 during World War II.

The game has always served as a measuring stick for the two teams. Legendary Tennessee coach Gen. Bob Neyland, for whom the stadium in which the game will be played Saturday is named, always said the stiffest test for his team was when it played Alabama. Bama’s Coach Bear Bryant said, “We never know what kind of team we have until we play Tennessee.”

That is the case this year with both teams coming into the game with winning records but many question marks. The rap on Alabama is that it wins against creampuff opponents but can’t beat quality foes. Tennessee has been erratic, looking good for parts of games and bad in others.

Tennessee comes into the game ranked eighth nationally in passing offense and Vol QB Erik Ainge’s passer efficiency rating leads the SEC and ranks seventh in the nation.

One interesting statistical anomaly that will be interesting to see how it plays out will come when Alabama gets a first down inside the Vol 20. Alabama has been miserable in red zone situations this year, having to settle for a field goal most of the time and often not making them. But Tennessee is just as futile in defending the red zone. Vol opponents have scored all 13 times they’ve reached the red zone – nine TDs, four field goals.

While everyone expects Tennessee to mount an aerial attack, the question is will Alabama go to its running game to try and melt the clock, shorten the game and keep the potent Tennessee offense off the field? Or will the Tide lean on its passing game to move the ball. Bama QB John Parker Wilson has racked up seven-straight 200-yard-plus passing games.

Other league games on tap this week include Tulane (2-4) at No. 8 Auburn, Ole Miss (2-5) at No. 15 Arkansas (5-1), Mississippi State (2-5) at Georgia (5-2), South Carolina (4-2) at Vanderbilt (3-4) and Fresno State (1-5) at No. 14 LSU (5-2).

This week’s college football TV schedule kicks off tonight, Friday, with
West Virginia at Connecticut at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Saturday’s weekend TV lineup, other than pay-for-view is as follows:

Texas at Nebraska, 11 a.m. (ABC)
North Carolina St. at Maryland, 11 a.m. (WB)
Michigan State at Northwestern, 11 a.m. (CSS)
Wisconsin at Purdue, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Illinois at Penn State, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Indiana at Ohio State, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
UCLA at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m. (NBC)
Boston College at FSU, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Alabama at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. (CBS)
Tennessee State at Jacksonville State, 2:30 p.m. (CSS)
Washington at California, 2:30 p.m. (FSN)
TCU at Army, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
North Texas at Arkansas St., 6 p.m. (CSS)
Colorado at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Rutgers at Pitt, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Southern Miss at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia Tech at Clemson, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN)
Fresno State at LSU, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)