5 things to watch for in Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

5 things to watch for in Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Here are five things to watch in the Tennessee-Alabama matchup, a game that has frequently been played on the Third Saturday in October:

Prevew capsule:  Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama

HOT RUNNING BACKS:

Alabama's T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have been rolling lately, combining for 648 yards in the last three SEC games. Tennessee counters with Rajion Neal and a formidable offensive line. Neal has run for 100-plus yards in two of the last three games, but was limited to 42 yards by Florida and Oregon. "This is probably the best overall offensive line we've had to play against this year," Tide coach Nick Saban said.

CONFIDENT VOLS:

Tennessee is hoping that ending a 19-game skid against ranked teams will lead to a renewed confidence going into this one. The Vols have lost nine straight SEC road games. "I feel like there's just a whole new confidence level on this football team as opposed to previous years," Stone said. "Everybody just has a different mentality."

RELEVANT RIVALRY:

Jones appreciates "this great rivalry" and the significance of it to both schools and fan bases. But he says the Vols need to start beating some of their rivals to make the games relevant again.

MEASURING STICK:

This game will provide a just-for-fun barometer of how Alabama stacks up with Oregon, in case those teams play for a national title. There's really no comparison in styles, and perhaps in how Tennessee's defense is playing since that 59-14 loss. "We've improved, there's no question about that," Vols defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "In comparing us to the Oregon game, Oregon gives you a lot of problems. Their tempo and the things that they do, we didn't handle very well. We've grown. We've moved on."

JUST FOR KICKS:

Some veterans remember the 2009 game, when Alabama continued on its road to a national championship only with Terrence Cody's two blocked field goals in the fourth quarter. Tide quarterback AJ McCarron's view was obstructed but he remembers the "crazy moment." ''I heard everyone cheer and thought something must have gone right and then watched the replay," McCarron said. "It was a great moment for our school and it led to the first national championship in a long time."

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