By Jimmy Hyams
How good is Alabama’s offense?
It is so good, it scores a touchdown every 10.7 offensive snaps. Auburn scores a TD every 23.1 snaps. Tennessee every 22.6 snaps.
And that number for the Crimson Tide is a bit skewed because its first-team offense is usually on the bench in the fourth quarter.
How good is that Bama offense?
Its starting quarterback has thrown 21 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions and no passes in the fourth quarter.
Its top three wide receivers each average over 18 yards per catch, with the leader at 27.1.
It’s top two running backs average at least 6.4 yards per carry.
It has scored a touchdown on its first possession of all seven games, twice on the first play, once on the second play.
It is averaging 53.6 points and 567 total yards per game.
Alabama’s offense is so good, Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said the Tide has had to try not to score 100 points in a game.
“Keeping those guys from making explosive plays will be a monumental task for our guys,’’ Pruitt said.
Alabama will make explosive plays against anyone. The key is to limit the 20-yard gains to no more than five in a game.
Tennessee did that against Auburn, but Auburn’s offense doesn’t compare to Alabama’s.
What are the keys to competing against perhaps Nick Saban’s best team?
Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano must play exceptionally well. He did so against Auburn, hitting 21 of 32 throws for 328 yards and two touchdowns.
UT’s receivers must make big catches, like they did against Auburn.
UT must make splash plays. The Vols had 10 plays of 18 or more yards against Auburn.
UT’s run defense must stiffen like it did against Auburn after the first drive, allowing the Tigers only 68 rushing yards on their last 10 series, and just 10 in the second half.
UT must convert on third down. The Vols were 10 of 19 against Auburn and Guarantano was 8 of 8 on third-and-8-or-more yards for 168 yards with seven first downs. You wouldn’t expect that conversion rate against UTEP, much less Auburn. And certainly not Alabama.
It’s interesting to note UT has not done well converting on third-and-short, making 9 of 22 when needing 3 or fewer yards. Yet, UT has converted at least 16 times on third-and-7 or more.
Tennessee gained confidence and momentum in defeating Auburn.
The concern for the Vol Nation is whether Alabama destroys both this Saturday.
I think it would be better for UT if it faced anybody but Bama this weekend. I think UT could beat any of the remaining teams on the schedule this week, other than Alabama.
Having said that, each of the last five games on UT’s schedule are winnable. I think UT will take three of those and become bowl eligible.
That will demonstrate Pruitt’s program is not only going in the right direction, but it could influence some key recruits to stick with the Vols or jump on the UT bandwagon.
Last week: 4-2 (2-3 on SEC best bets).
Message to self: Stay away from over-under. We were 2-0 with LSU taking points against Georgia and Alabama giving points against Missouri. But 0-3 with over-under on Georgia-LSU, Florida-Vanderbilt, Tennessee-Auburn.
Last week, we called Florida struggling to beat Vanderbilt, Texas A&M nudging past South Carolina and Alabama routing Missouri. We missed on UT upset of Auburn and LSU blowing out Georgia.
My picks for this week:
Alabama 42-13 over Tennessee. Tide takes control in first half but Vols play it close in second half.
Arkansas 40-34 over Tulsa. Golden Hurricanes kept it close against Texas and South Florida and will press a Hogs’ team that lost a heart-breaker to Ole Miss.
Missouri 44-37 over Memphis. Missouri is appreciably better at home than on the road. Memphis fell to Tulane 40-24 but lost by just one to Central Florida and Navy.
Kentucky 34-20 over Vanderbilt. A fresh Kentucky team led by Benny Snell takes it to a Vandy team that blew a 21-3 first half lead at home against Florida.
LSU 27-20 over Mississippi State. LSU is coming off emotional win over Georgia and wants to avenge 37-7 loss to State last year. State QB Nick Fitzgerald won’t run all over LSU like he did Auburn.
Auburn 24-23 over Ole Miss. Does Auburn have the will to win? If not, Tigers might miss a bowl. Ole Miss offense has struggled against good defenses.
Best SEC bet:
Forget what I said earlier, take over 55 in the Arkansas-Tulsa game.