Jeremy Pruitt may understand Alabama football better than other head coaches. From that knowledge, we consider what will he try on Saturday.
There is no spin to minimize the road challenge of a 2-4 team facing the Alabama football, No. 1 ranked team. The Tennessee Vols have a huge task, explained by a predicted five-touchdown spread. Better than any former assistant, Vols head coach, Jeremy Pruitt understands how a Nick Saban defense can stymie his offense. That knowledge will not be enough, but it will be interesting to see how Pruitt attempts to counter.
No rational observer expects the Vols defense to slow down the Tua-led Alabama Crimson Tide. Pruitt even joked earlier in the week, his goal was to keep the ball out of Tua’s hands – as in never punting and kicking onsides. That would certainly be bold.
Instead, Pruitt is likely to use a more traditional approach. Tennessee is No. 11 in the SEC in rushing offense and time-of-possession. But the Vols will have to run effectively to beat the Crimson Tide. One reason for the need to run is the Alabama football defense’s strength is its secondary. The other reason is the Vols are likely to start a true freshman at quarterback. He is Brian Maurer and along with Jarrett Guarantano, the Vols are No. 14 in the SEC in throwing interceptions.
Pruitt can hope his Tennessee defense can slow the Tide. The Vols have a respectable pass defense, coupled with a below-par rushing defense. The Sarkisian designed Alabama football offense will take what is available. The Crimson Tide, behind its new offensive line, could chew up yards. Sark may not have to rely as much on Tua’s arm.
The best bet for Pruitt is his defense being stingy against the pass, slowing down the Tide offense into time-consuming, run-assisted drives. Even when those drives lead to touchdowns, slowing the game works in favor of the Vols.
When the Vols have the ball, a time-consuming approach will be to feature Ty Chandler. If Chandler can consistently get yards on the ground, mixed with short passes to him in the flats, the Vols can chew clock with first downs and possibly produce points.
Will such a strategy be enough for an upset? Not a chance, but it could result in less embarrassment to the Vols as the Alabama Crimson Tide rolls to 13 in a row in the series.