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Alabama at Tennessee

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Tennessee (5-1 straight up, 3-3 against the spread) saw its good fortune finally run out last week in College Station, where it dropped a 45-38 decision to Texas A&M in overtime. The Volunteers took the cash, however, as 7.5-point underdogs thanks to yet another comeback from a huge deficit.

Butch Jones’s squad has now fallen behind by double-digit margins in five of its six games. UT trailed the Aggies 28-7 midway through the third quarter, but TD runs by Alvin Kamara and Joe Kelly trimmed the deficit to 28-21 with 7:06 remaining.

Trevor Knight put A&M in front 35-21 at the 3:22 mark with a 62-yard touchdown run, but the Vols answered with a Kamara four-yard TD run with 2:07 remaining. Next, Texas A&M freshman RB Trayveon Williams bolted off tackle left and appeared on his way to a 73-yard TD scamper. However, in one of the best plays you’ll see all season long, UT cornerback punched the ball out of Williams’s hands just a yard before he went into the end zone. The ball went out of the back of the end zone, prompting a touchback.

Tennessee took advantage by marching down the field and getting another TD from Kamara, who caught an 18-yard scoring strike from Josh Dobbs with ticks left. A&M would get into field-goal range for the final play of regulation, but its kicker hooked a potential game-winner badly.

After both teams matched field goals in the first extra session, Knight scored on a one-yard TD run in double overtime. Therefore, when Armani Watts intercepted Dobbs moments later, the game was over.

UT must quickly put that one in the rearview mirror because here comes top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama into Neyland Stadium. The Crimson Tide has won nine in a row over the Vols, who last beat ‘Bama by a 16-13 count in 2006 when Mike Shula will still on the sidelines in Tuscaloosa. During Nick Saban’s dynastic nine-year tenure, Alabama has gone 6-3 ATS when facing UT, but we’ll note the Vols have covered the number in back-to-back meetings.

In the 2014 encounter in Knoxville, Alabama (6-0 SU, 4-2 ATS) raced out to a 27-0 lead early in the second quarter. This prompted Jones to yank QB Nathan Peterman and insert Dobbs, who quickly asserted himself as the new starter for the long haul. Dobbs led UT to 17 unanswered points to pull within 27-17 on his nine-yard TD pass to Von Pearson with 5:52 left in the third quarter.

Tennessee would get no closer in the 34-20 loss, but it took the cash as a 20-point home underdog. Most important, Jones finally found his QB in Dobbs, who threw for 192 yards and two TDs while also rushing for 75 yards.

Dobbs has started 24 consecutive games since then, going 18-6. None of the six defeats have come by a margin larger than eight, including last season’s 19-14 loss at Alabama as a 15-point ‘dog.

As of late Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Alabama installed as a 13.5-point favorite with a total of 57.5 points. The Vols were +400 on the money line (risk $100 to win $400).

Since Jones took over in 2013, UT has compiled a 4-1 spread record with a pair of outright wins in five games as a home underdog. The Vols have only been double-digit home ‘dogs twice on Jones’s watch, going 2-0 ATS.

UT has wins vs. Appalachian State (20-13 in OT), vs. Virginia Tech (45-24 in Bristol), vs. Ohio (28-19), vs. Florida (38-28) and at Georgia (34-31 thanks to a walk-off Hail Mary pass) this year. Dobbs has been the catalyst, throwing for 1,433 yards with a 14/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has rushed for 324 yards and five TDs.

Tennessee will get starting RB Jalen Hurd back after he missed the Texas A&M game, but it says here that Jones needs to give Kamara more touches than Hurd. Kamara rushed for 127 yards and two TDs o 18 attempts in College Station. He also had eight receptions for 161 yards and one TD.

Hurd has rushed for 407 yards and two TDs while averaging only 4.0 yards per carry. Kamara has a 5.2 YPC average and 20 receptions for 253 yards and three TDs.

Tennessee’s defense is without two of its best players. Cam Sutton, one of the SEC’s best cornerbacks who was a second-team All-American as a punt returner last year, went down with a broken bone in his leg in the win over Ohio and remains ‘out.’ Senior LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, a second-team All-SEC selection in 2015, will miss his fourth consecutive game due to a shoulder injury. Also, sophomore LB Darrin Kirkland is expected to be a game-time decision. Kirkland has missed the last four games due to a high-ankle sprain. He had 66 tackles and three sacks last year.

Alabama is off a 49-30 win at Arkansas as a 14.5-point road favorite. The defense produced two more TDs on a 23-yard scoop and score from Tim Williams and a 100-yard pick-six by Minkah Fitzpatrick, who intercepted Austin Allen three times. Jalen Hurts completed 13-of-17 passes for 253 yards with two TDs and one interception.

ArDarius Stewart had five catches for 120 yards, while Damien Harris had a pair of receptions for 60 yards and one TD. Harris rushed 13 times for 122 yards.

Hurts, the true freshman QB, has seen nothing short of sensational to date. He has connected on 63.8 percent of his throws for 1,242 yards with a 9/2 TD-INT ratio. Hurts has also produced 296 rushing yards and five TDs on 62 attempts.

Calvin Ridley, a true sophomore, is Hurts’s favorite target. Ridley has 34 receptions for 412 yards and four TDs, while Stewart has 18 catches for 325 yards and three TDs despite missing 2.5 games. Harris has rushed for a team-high 478 yards and one TD, averaging 8.7 YPC. Joshua Jacobs has gained 307 rushing yards and three TDs on just 37 attempts for an 8.3 YPC average.

Alabama’s defense is stacked with future NFL players. This unit is led by senior LB Rueben Foster, who has a team-best 37 tackles to go with 2.5 tackles for loss, three QB hurries, one pass broken up and 0.5 sacks. Junior LB Shaun Dion Hamilton has 34 tackles, 5.5 TFL’s, two sacks and one forced fumble, while Fitzpatrick has recorded 27 tackles, three interceptions, two TFL’s, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five PBU.

Alabama has posted wins vs. USC (52-6 at Jerry World), vs. Western Ky. (38-10), at Ole Miss (48-43 after trailing 24-3), vs. Kent State (48-0), vs. Kentucky (34-6) and at Arkansas (49-30).

The ‘over’ has cashed in three straight for Tennessee and is 4-2 overall. The last three games have had combined scores of 66, 65 and 83.

Alabama has seen the ‘over’ hit in both of its road games that produced combined scores of 91 and 79 points.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- The ‘over’ is 3-1 in the last four UT-Bama head-to-head meetings.

-- Arkansas LB Dre Greenlaw is out for the next 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. Greenlaw had 37 tackles, one INT, one forced fumble and 1.5 TFL's through the Razorbacks’ first six games.

-- Bret Bielema’s team is in bounce-back mode for Saturday’s showdown at home vs. Ole Miss. The Rebels are out for revenge after the Hogs denied them their first SEC West title by rallying for an improbable 53-52 OT victory in Oxford last year. Two seasons ago in Fayetteville, Arkansas dealt out cream-cheese treatment to Ole Miss in the form of a 30-0 clubbing. The Rebels, who were 7.5-point road ‘chalk’ as of late Friday afternoon, have gone 5-6 in 11 games as road favorites on Hugh Freeze’s watch. Meanwhile, Arkansas is 4-5 ATS as home underdog during Bielema’s four-year tenure.

-- Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason needs a victory in the worst way Saturday in Athens. His Commodores fell to 2-4 in this third and crucial campaign for his tenure by dropping a 20-13 decision at Kentucky last week. Mason, who was tabbed for his first head-coaching job after a successful run as defensive coordinator at Stanford under David Shaw, has done a splendid job of creating a solid defense for Vandy. However, the offense, most notably the QB play, has been an unmitigated disaster. That continued in Lexington last week in a game that saw Vandy get its only TD on a defensive fumble return. And let’s be real here – UK’s defense is horrible! The Commodores are 14.5-point ‘dogs at UGA. They have produced a 9-5 spread record in 14 games as double-digit ‘dogs on Mason’s watch.

-- Florida QB Luke Del Rio (6/2 TD-INT) will get his first start since a Week 3 win over North Texas when his team takes on Missouri as a 13.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The Gators have limped to a 2-6 spread record in the eight games they’ve been favored by double digits since Jim McElwain took over in 2015. Both teams have had two weeks to get ready for this one. UF’s home game vs. LSU was postponed last week due to Hurricane Matthew. This game will now be played in Baton Rouge on Nov. 19. With this development, LSU gets an extra home game for a second straight season, while UF loses out on two home games this year. UF’s game with Presbyterian that was originally scheduled for Nov. 19 has now been cancelled.

-- Arkansas QB Austin Allen is one of the toughest players in all of college football. He took a ruthless beating from Alabama and never stayed down. According to Bart Pohlman, the producer of the biggest and best radio show in Arkansas (Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly) that I appear on every now and then as a guest, Allen was knocked down 26 times by the Crimson Tide.

-- Texas A&M is 6-0 for the first time since 1994 and Kevin Sumlin is off the hot seat that was rapidly warming during this past offseason. The Aggies are off this weekend with two weeks to prepare for next Saturday’s showdown against the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

-- The ‘over’ has hit in five straight games for the Pitt Panthers, who play at Virginia this weekend.

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