Alabama vs. Tennessee Prediction: Picks, betting odds, more

 Brandon Eisenman   in Football

Saturday's game between the Alabama and Tennessee, which kicks off at 6 Central in Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium, renews one of the South's great rivalries. 

The Crimson Tide are coming off a dominant 49-9 win over Mississippi State, but need a win to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. 

The Vols lost at home to Ole Miss 31-26 last Saturday in a game overshadowed by a controversial ending. Tennessee could be without quarterback Hendon Hooker, who suffered an injury in the loss this past weekend. 

For Alabama, the offense is key. Bryce Young continues to put up great numbers and keep his name in the race for the Heisman Trophy. If Young can help space the field and hit his receivers, the passing attack of the Crimson Tide will have success. 

The 'Tide run the ball well, too, with a combination of Brian Robinson and Roydell Williams. Robinson, in particular, has come up huge in big games. Alabama's running game has been solid this season. 

But Tennessee run defense that allows 136 rushing yards per game and just 3.5 yards per carry.

Defensively, Alabama will have to contain Tennessee's quarterback, whether that's Hooker or Joe Milton, making sure whichever player is behind center stays in the pocket. The 'Tide allows 210 passing yards per game and 6.8 yards per throw.

 Tennessee is scoring 39 points per game, but playing in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be no easy feat. Much depends on who's behind center. 

The injury to Hooker could put Milton in the starting role this week and the drop-off from Hooker to Milton is significant. Milton has hit just 46.7% of his 45 throws, with one touchdown and no picks, while Hooker's connecting at a 68.8% rate with 14 TDs vs. one pick. For his career, Hooker has 36 touchdown passes against eight interceptions, while Milton has just six touchdowns offset by six picks. 

The Crimson Tide allow just 93 rushing yards per game and 2.8 per carry. Perhaps more importantly, Ole Miss's Matt Corral--who ran for 195 yards vs. Tennessee last week--had just three rushing yards on 10 carries vs. Alabama.

Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans has had a nice season; Evans has simultaneously eclipsed 119 rushing yards and 7.4 yards per carry three times this year, including contests against Missouri and South Carolina. However, Evans was a late scratch in last week's Ole Miss game

The Volunteers defense, led by linebacker Jeremy Banks with 48 tackles, will have to eliminate the opportunities for Alabama to run the ball. If Tennessee can stack the box and stop the run, that will force Young to throw the ball. Tennessee's defense has 31 total passes defended and eight interceptions in 2021. Forcing Young into hurrying his throws and getting pressure in the pocket will give the Volunteers defense its best chance to come up big on Saturday.