Saturday is just the second time in college football history that there are three matchups of 5-0 or better teams on the same Saturday.
Saturday is the 2nd time in CFB history there are three matchups of teams 5-0 or better on the same day – 5-0 Penn State at 6-0 Michigan, 6-0 Alabama at 5-0 Tennessee and 5-0 Oklahoma State at 5-0 TCU…
— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) October 10, 2022
This is the first time this has happened in a whopping 29 years.
The Alabama Crimson Tide vs the Tennessee Volunteers is the best of those three matchups.
Luckily, we think Bama starting quarterback Bryce Young will be ready for this primetime matchup. That gives us the two best quarterbacks in the SEC facing off in Rocky Top, and I’m sure Hendon Hooker is ready for the challenge.
Bama has struggled as a true road dog recently but Nick Saban is 6-1 ATS in Knoxville in his career. Do we get the dominant or sloppy Alabama in Week 7?
Let’s break it down. Read on for our Alabama Crimson Tide vs Tennessee Volunteers Broncos odds, picks, and predictions.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Tennessee Volunteers Odds
Alabama opened as 10-point favorites but this line was quickly bet down to a touchdown following the Tide’s unimpressive victory over Texas A&M.
Some of the line movement can be attributed to the quarterback situation. I project this as a double-digit spread with Young in the fold. So keep a close eye on the injury reports.
A bit of sharp money has hit the under, which is unusually high at 65.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Tennessee Volunteers Prediction & Pick
How do you handicap a game of this magnitude?
I’d start with Josh Heupel. The second-year head coach is proving he was the right man for the job after going 28-8 in three years at UCF. He’s also transformed Hooker into one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, and a potential Heisman candidate.
Hooker has always had the ability to run, but he’s been perfect through the air this season while targeting more downfield. His 10.2 yards per attempt would be a career-high, as would his 70% completion rate.
Hooker’s deep ball is that good.
Who throws a better deep ball than Hendon Hooker? pic.twitter.com/5Gt63xBTxs
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 11, 2022
But Hooker’s ascension to the top of the college football landscape highlights the Vols’ one weakness – the pass defense.
The Vols are allowing over 300 pass yards per game. They are one of the worst coverage teams in the nation per PFF. They’ve been bad at rushing the passer and creating distress in the backfield.
That’s why Young is so key to this spread. You’ve seen Young hop around in the pocket, avoiding rushers and extending plays before he finds the open man for a big gain. Young will slice and dice Tennessee if the pass rush gifts him all the time in the world.
Backup Jalen Milroe is a four-star prospect with all the athletic tools – you’ve already seen him tear apart defenses with long rushes – but he has yet to develop the decision-making skills necessary to tear up a secondary as Young has.
The difference between Young and Milroe will never be as pronounced as it is in this game. If Young doesn’t play, I love Tennessee at this number. The Vols rush defense has been immense, holding opponents to less than 90 yards per game at a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. Milroe’s strengths will be neutralized in this case.
If Young does play, things get more complicated. This line will jump, likely to +10.5, and it would be sharp to bet Alabama now if that’s the case.
However, I still want to bet on Tennessee if Young plays. Alabama has failed to cover as a road favorite in four of its last six opportunities. The strike price for that situation will be much different, but anything over 10 points is likely enough.
Keep a close eye on the injury report and target Tennessee at either price.
My pick: Bet Tennessee at +7 or better if Milroe starts | Bet Tennessee at +10 or better if Young starts
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Tennessee Volunteers Key Matchups
Key Matchup No. 1: Tennessee’s Pass Rush vs Alabama Quarterback
As mentioned, Tennessee’s main weakness is in the passing game. The coverage game is incredibly weak and the Alabama wide receivers will likely dice up that unit.
However, maybe Heupel and Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks can neutralize that by effectively rushing Alabama. The Crimson Tide have had trouble avoiding Havoc plays. If Tennessee can create some pressure on either Milroe or Young, perhaps that will help out the weaker part of the defense.
Pass rush and coverage go hand-in-hand, they say.
Key Matchup No. 2: Will Anderson vs Hendon Hooker
Will Anderson to Hendon Hooker pic.twitter.com/6J5vKd2ML5
— The Ox Cord Podcast (@TheOxCordPod) October 10, 2022
Will Anderson is the best defensive player in the nation. He picked up 10 pressures and five hurries against Texas A&M just last week. He’s managed eight sacks on the season. He’s a monster.
However, his missed tackle rate is higher than ever this season, up over 14% from 2021 (to 27.6%). Hooker is willing and able to force those missed tackles and that could come back to bite Alabama in this game.
Whether or not this specific matchup becomes important, Anderson is the best defensive player on the Tide and has to be a force in a road game against an electric offense. Hooker has to counter.
Keep an eye on these two.