KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It’s been near 16 years because the Tennessee Volunteers final tasted victory towards the Alabama Crimson Tide.
In what looks like a lifetime in the past, Tennessee final beat Alabama in 2006, taking down the Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium, 16-13.
In October 2006, Philip Fullmer was nonetheless the top coach in Knoxville, and Nick Saban was in his second and ultimate season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins within the NFL.
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Since then, Alabama has gone on one the best runs in faculty soccer historical past, ripping off six nationwide championships underneath Saban, whereas Tennessee is now on its sixth head coach since its final win over Alabama.
But Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee, presents the most effective alternative for the Vols to finish the dropping streak to Alabama and as soon as once more be a severe contender within the SEC.
Tennessee head Josh Heupel has the Vols rolling in his second season on the helm, main Tennessee to its greatest begin because the 2016 season.
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“As you’ll anticipate, all people’s excited and looking out ahead to the problem on Saturday afternoon,” Heupel mentioned Wednesday, in line with 247 Sports. “We’re taking part in a very good soccer crew – nicely coached, nice personnel – so it’ll be an enormous check for us actually in all three phases of the sport.
“They do an excellent job. Big check for us. We’ve gotta proceed to organize the precise approach right here as we get on the again finish of the week and press ahead to recreation day, the place we’re able to play our greatest.”
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It’s the offense that has led the cost for the Volunteers, as quarterback Hendon Hooker has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Hooker has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions because the Vols lead the nation in yards per recreation (547.8), are seventh within the nation in passing yards per recreation (340.4) and are second within the nation in factors per recreation (48.8).
In the week main as much as Saturday, Hooker mentioned he feels that Tennessee is in the identical class as Alabama.
“Yes. I really feel like we’re one of many prime applications within the nation,” Hooker mentioned.” Just persevering with to construct and persevering with to attempt for what we would like, and persevering with to simply work and are available with that work ethic being at a excessive stage and persevering with to remain collectively, as nicely.”
Alabama’s protection can have one thing to say about that.
The Crimson Tide protection is ranked sixth within the nation in yards allowed per recreation (250.8 yards per recreation), twelfth in passing yards (166.3 yards per recreation) and eighth in dashing yards per recreation (84.5).
“Between their personnel being ok to win a whole lot of one-on-one matchups after which all their pressures and all their video games up entrance, you gotta do a very good job,” Heupel mentioned of his offensive line, in line with ESPN. “You need to win the one-on-one matchups, and then you definately gotta do an awesome job working collectively as all 5 guys.”
While Tennessee’s offense and Alabama’s protection can be an enormous focus, the well being of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young may finally determine the rivalry recreation that dates all the way in which again to 1901.
Young, who missed Alabama’s Week 6 win over Texas A&M with an damage to his throwing shoulder, is reportedly anticipated to begin on Saturday.
If Young performs and is wholesome, he’ll have a chance to go after a Tennessee cross protection that ranks close to the underside of the FBS, permitting 307.4 yards per recreation by means of the air.
If Young is unable to go, will probably be on the shoulders of the operating recreation and backup quarterback Jalen Milroe.
Either approach, there’s a way that soccer is formally again in Knoxville, Tennessee, as all eyes flip to Neyland Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff.