Receivers [A] – Don’t look now ladies and gentlemen, but Amari Cooper is starting to get back to what he did last season. For the third game in a row, he had multiple receptions. His toe is getting stronger each week and he’s starting to look crisp in his route running. Against Tennessee, Cooper totaled five receptions for 75 yards (15.0 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Not to be outdone by Cooper was Kevin Norwood. He put in an excellent game on the receiving end. Norwood amassed six receptions for 112 yards (18.7 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Despite Cooper and Norwood led the core, Alabama’s receivers as a whole outgained Tennessee 275 to 195.
Defense [A] – Let’s be honest here, Tennessee’s offense is more potent than Arkansas’s so it’s expected to see the Volunteers at least move the ball down field against the Alabama defense. However, the Crimson Tide once again showed how dominant they are against a rebuilding Tennessee team. Coming into the matchup, Justin Worley’s numbers were second to last in the SEC. Against Alabama’s defense, the statistic was magnified. Though Worley did complete 53 percent of his passes for 120 yards, the Crimson Tide’s defense forced two interceptions.
Alabama fans knew how talented Landon Collins was coming from Louisiana two years ago, but what a job well by Collins against Tennessee. In the absence of Vinnie Sunseri, the Louisiana native came up huge defensively. In the second quarter, Collins was able to read the eyes of Worley, break on the football, get the interception and take it 89 yards to the house. Along with Collins, Deion Belue recorded an interception in the game.
Despite giving up 127 yards rushing, Alabama’s defense surrendered just 14 first downs and three third down conversions to the Volunteers.
Running Game [B+] – Though Alabama’s backs outgained Tennessee as a whole 204 to 127, the spotlight was still on TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. Despite both backs not gaining 100 yards, the productivity was still there. Both Yeldon and Drake used their vision to set up blocks, followed behind the offensive line and made plays downfield. Yeldon had 15 carries for 72 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Drake totaled 14 carries for 89 yards (6.4 yards per carry). Drake still needs to continue to learn ball security. He had a lost fumble in the game and it doesn’t matter how productive the run game is, Nick Saban still demands perfection and quality execution.
Offensive Line [A] – Alabama’s offensive did a great job of moving Tennessee’s defense off the ball and bullying them around. This is the fifth conference game in which the Tide has accumulated over 400 yards of offense. Against the Volunteers, Alabama totaled 479 yards of offense (204 yards rushing) and achieved 26 first downs. For the fourth game in a row, the Crimson Tide did a fantastic job of keeping AJ McCarron off the ground.
AJ McCarron [A+] – If ESPN watched this game, then they got the full understanding that it’s not just Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota that can move. It was another efficient day at the office of Bryant-Denny Stadium for McCarron. He had plenty of time to air the football out to the bevy of receiving talent. It may take him to duplicate this performance or go even higher against LSU for Heisman “dark horse” consideration. As for this matchup against Tennessee, McCarron carved the Vols all game long. He went 19-27 (70.4 percent of his passes completed) passing for 275 yards and three total touchdowns (one rushing).
This was another game for Alabama that dealt with third down conversions. The Crimson Tide rose to the occasion, converting 63.6 percent (7-11) on third down. As for Tennessee, the Vols struggled on third down. They only converted 25 percent (3-12).
If Tennessee was going to have a shot at competing in the game, they needed all their weapons on the perimeter to play big. Outside of Marquez North (four receptions for 87 yards), no other receiver had the hot hand for the Volunteers.
Despite the big play from Alabama, the Crimson Tide needs to cut down on penalties. Penalties and mistakes ruin drives and games. Though it didn’t affect them here, it could pose as a threat down the road. Alabama had four penalties in the game for 45 yards.
For the Volunteers, there is always next year for Butch Jones and the program. The next thing that’s on their mind is to just get bowl eligible and end the season on a positive note. Tennessee is a program on the rise, but they picked a bad time to play against the No.1 team in the nation who is simply on a roll.
As for Alabama, the beat goes on. The Crimson Tide is now 8-0 (5-0 in conference) overall and can finally look to the gladiator matchup against LSU. For now, Alabama and its fans will fire up cigars in celebration with a 45-10 victory over Tennessee.