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It takes a great QB to beat Bama and UT’s Hooker is one


To beat Alabama, it usually takes a near-Herculean effort from the quarterback position. Since the start of the 2014 season — the beginning of the College Football Playoff era — Alabama has lost 10 games, and in those games, the opponents’ quarterbacks posted an average stat line of 22-of-34 for 291 yards. Most importantly, quarterbacks have minimized their turnovers while still making crucial throws. Those quarterbacks have thrown 22 touchdowns with just two interceptions in the 10 games.

Putting up impressive stats won’t be enough for Hooker against Alabama. Tennessee will have to do something it’s struggled to do since Nick Saban took over for the Crimson Tide, and that’s score points. Since Saban was hired prior to the 2007 season, Tennessee has averaged 13.4 points per game in the series. Saban’s Alabama teams have gone 15-0 versus Tennessee, outscoring the Volunteers 589-201. 

Fortunately for Tennessee fans, the offense had its most prolific game against an Alabama defense since 2003 a year ago when the Vols put up 24 points in a 52-24 defeat. Hooker went 19-of-28 for 282 yards and three touchdowns in that game, but he did also throw an interception. For what it’s worth, Tennessee played Alabama close for the first 36 minutes. After trailing 24-17 entering the fourth quarter, Tennessee was outscored 28-7 during the final 15 minutes.

This season, Tennessee’s offense is operating on all cylinders. Through five games, the Volunteers are averaging 46.8 points per game with Hendon the engine that’s kept the offense’s motor running, completing 70 percent of his pass attempts. He has 1,663 passing and rushing yards combined and has thrown for 10 touchdowns while adding three more on the ground.

The stars are aligning for Tennessee as it seeks the program’s biggest win since the 2007 season, the last time the Vols won the SEC East. They have a quarterback with the requisite skills needed to take down an Alabama team that doesn’t go down often, an offense that isn’t scared to get involved in a shootout and a potentially not-100-percent Bryce Young attempting to trade touchdown-for-touchdown with Hooker.

Saban told reporters on Monday that his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback “is getting re-evaluated today,” and that “we’re going to try to get him ready to play this week.” 

After Tennessee spent the last decade-plus chasing Alabama, Young’s availability for Saturday’s game will be a key factor in determining whether it’s Alabama playing catch-up to Tennessee this time.

If Young suits up, he’ll be in line for another monster afternoon after going 31-of-43 for 371 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee a season ago. But for the first time in a long time, Tennessee doesn’t appear willing to back down, and come late Saturday evening, the Volus might just be the last team standing.





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