We have hit on our lone college football pick in each of the past two weeks and have a strong opinion on this Saturday’s SEC matchup between No. 2 Alabama and Tennessee. Which way to lean at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks?
No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (2-2)
Saturday, October 24, 2020 – 03:30 PM ET – at Neyland Stadium
Tennessee definitely has drawn the short straw in terms of annual crossover SEC opponent, with the Vols stuck facing – and getting beaten by – powerhouse Alabama every year. Usually, these teams play on the third Saturday of October, but it will be the fourth one this year with some coronavirus-related schedule changes.
The two teams will be facing off for the 103rd time with The Tide leading 56-38-7 and on a 13-game winning streak vs. the Vols. In Knoxville all-time, Alabama leads 26-20-1. It has covered the NCAAF spread in eight of its past nine visits to Rocky Top.
Last year, Bama was a whopping 34.5-point favorite and had a three-game against the spread winning streak at the top sportsbooks end in the series as the Tide “only” won 35-13. Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game due to injury in the second quarter after completing 11 of 12 for 155 yards and a pick. Mac Jones replaced and was 6-for-11 for 72 yards. Najee Harris was most of the offense as he rushed 21 times for 105 yards and two scores. Tennessee started Brian Maurer at QB, but he was knocked out with a concussion and replaced by Jarrett Guarantano. UT was held to 231 yards.
Saban Doesn’t Lose To Former Assistants
Last week was quite an unusual one for Alabama as the school saw coach Nick Saban test positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. Yet shockingly, he was able to coach Saturday’s mega-showdown with then-No. 3 Georgia after returning all negative tests after that.
The Tide were in a dogfight at the half up 24-20 but dominated after intermission to win 41-24 and improve Saban to an incredible 22-0 all-time against his former assistants – Georgia’s Kirby Smart was a former defensive coordinator at Alabama.
Jones put his name squarely in the Heisman chase – he’s the +450 second-favorite now at BetOnline behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence – by throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Jones was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. It was his third straight 400-yard game.
Harris was a beast with 152 yards and a TD on 31 carries, while Devonta Smith had 11 catches for 167 yards and two scores and Jaylen Waddle six for 161 and a TD. Saturday marked the second game in a row that both Smith and Waddle went over 100 yards receiving and Waddle has topped 100 yards in all four games this year. Harris now has at least one rushing TD in 11 straight games.
Georgia entered with the nation’s top-ranked defense but allowed 564 yards. All but two of Saban’s 22 wins against former assistants have been by double digits. He faces another one here.
Vols Make Defensive Change After Loss
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt is an alum of Alabama and got his coaching start there as a graduate assistant in 1997. He spent the 2016-17 seasons as Smart’s replacement as defensive coordinator before getting the UT job.
We recommended against Tennessee last Saturday against Kentucky, opting for UK +6. The Cats shocked everyone with a dominant 34-7 road win thanks in large part to four Tennessee turnovers on four straight possessions in the first half, two of them picks by Guarantano that were returned for touchdowns. Kentucky hadn’t won in Knoxville in 36 years.
Pruitt was so angry that he fired defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Brumbaugh afterward. Brumbaugh was just hired this past offseason and got a two-year contract paying him $650,000 per year that was set to run through January 2022. He’s still owed more than $800K. Tennessee is giving up 362.0 yards per game defensively, which ranks fifth in the SEC.
It’s not clear who will start at QB here after Guarantano was briefly benched in the loss. Sophomore J.T. Shrout replaced Guarantano and immediately threw another interception. Guarantano then returned and played the rest of the way. Fellow QB Maurer is still trying to catch up after missing most of preseason practice with a hamstring injury and because of COVID-19 quarantine.
The last time UT beat a ranked Alabama team was Oct. 23, 1999, by a score of 21-7 in Tuscaloosa. Simulations I have run project a final score of something like 47-17, but we will buy down the spread a half-point to get under 21. The Vols are 8-18 ATS in their past 21 at home.
If you wish to read more on the Vols chances to beat Bama, read Dakota Cox's 3 Keys for Tennessee to upset Alabama.
NCAAF pick: Alabama at -20.5 (buy down from -21) with BookMaker (visit our Bookmaker review)