John Adams: No. 2 Alabama looks like No. 1

John Adams
Adam Brimer/News Sentinel
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, left, shakes hands with Alabama coach Nick Saban after the Vols' 41-10 loss to the Crimson Tide last year at Neyland Stadium.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Adam Brimer/News Sentinel Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, left, shakes hands with Alabama coach Nick Saban after the Vols' 41-10 loss to the Crimson Tide last year at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee won't think it's playing the No. 2 team in the country after it completes its video homework this week. Alabama looks better than that.

I won't argue that LSU deserves to be No. 1 based on its strength of schedule, and I'm mystified that the coaches would vote Oklahoma ahead of either LSU or Alabama. But neither the Tigers nor the Sooners looks as thoroughly dominant as the Tide.

In fact, of all the outstanding teams UT has run across since its program went south in 2008, this Alabama team could be better than any of them. The Tide can't prove that Saturday against UT. That's a topic for debate Nov. 5 after the Tide takes on LSU.

"This is (Nick Saban's) best team," UT coach Derek Dooley said of a coach who already has two national championships on his resume. "It's probably as physically dominating of a defense as I've seen in the modern era of football. I know that's a strong statement. But I believe it.

"You catch yourself watching them, not studying them."

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt probably wouldn't argue with Dooley's glowing critique. He said last week that he thought Alabama was better now than when it won the national championship two years ago. The Tide backed up his assessment — at the expense of his team — in a 52-7 victory Saturday. It more than quadrupled Ole Miss' yardage (615-141), didn't commit a turnover and performed so flawlessly that its No. 1 critic was grasping for minutiae afterward.

"The kick coverage was not good," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "That's something we need to get better at right away."

So now we know the Tide's point of emphasis for this week: kick coverage.

Saban's demand for excellence is a familiar theme. But there are other striking similarities between the unbeaten Alabama team of two years ago and the one that is unbeaten through seven games: great defense, great running games and great motivation.

This team might have even more motivation.

The 2009 Alabama team was motivated by a last-minute loss to Florida in the 2008 SEC championship game. This team de

rives incentive from the 24-0 lead it blew in a 28-27 loss to arch-rival Auburn, which proceeded to win a national title of its own.

Maybe that helps account for Alabama's thoroughness. It has left little to chance in averaging 39.7 points per game and giving up 7 per game. The closest it has come to off days were a 27-11 victory over Penn State and a 34-0 victory over Vanderbilt, which it led only 14-0 at halftime.

Alabama has outscored four SEC opponents, including two who were nationally ranked, by an average of 37 points. Its 2009 team didn't beat an SEC team by more than 28 points.

"It's a combination of everything," Dooley said. "Incredible talent at every position, great coaching and just a relentless, physical, dominant style of play. A Heisman Trophy runner. You look at their three running backs ... Every one of them is averaging around 6 or 7 yards a carry."

His reference to running back Trent Richardson was a reminder that the Tide also has star power going for it. The value in that is evident in the SEC's last three national championships, all won by teams with a Heisman Trophy winner on board.

Richardson leads the SEC in rushing and touchdowns. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw leads the conference in tackles for loss. They're Alabama's equivalent of Auburn's Cam Newton and Nick Fairley last season.

Other statistics reflect the Tide's balance. Marquis Maze ranks third in the SEC in punt returns, pass receptions per game and all-purpose yardage. First-year starting quarterback A.J. McCarron is fourth in passing yardage per game. As a team, Alabama leads the conference in 12 statistical categories.

But its kick-coverage unit needs a lot of work.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 37

TarheelVol writes:

Pish posh. We do have those Bammers right where we want them.
They'll never know what hit them.

GiveHimSixMoreYears writes:

Wait until year 3 under Dooley. It's only going to get worse. Pitiful team, more pitiful coach, most pitiful fans, who think Dooley will ever amount to anything but a 2-6 coach in the SEC

cloudodust writes:

Alabama will be one of the most disciplined teams, top to bottom, Tennessee will see all year.

cloudodust writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

Wait until year 3 under Dooley. It's only going to get worse. Pitiful team, more pitiful coach, most pitiful fans, who think Dooley will ever amount to anything but a 2-6 coach in the SEC

Pitiful troll

RussellP (Inactive) writes:

Put the Vols down for a win. Everything points in that directon...they are due, and Bama is definitely due for an upset, being as overconfident as they are and being as they are certainly looking forward to the LSU game. I'm going to go all out and predict UT 24, Bama 17. GBO!

The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca writes:

When was the last time we were 29 point underdogs to Alabama?

When was the last time we were 29 point underdogs to anyone?

Fire Fulmer!

GiveHimSixMoreYears writes:

Been a Tennessee fan for many years. The most disgusting thing is how so called fans would put up with Dooley's incompetence and actually think he should stay on.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

You gotta feel bad for the few juniors and seniors on this team. They've worked so hard to get to this point in their life and now they're told that there's no way that they can compete for a championship for the next two years because Dooley doesn't have a full roster of "his" players or the bamboo hasn't gotten enough water or whatever.

Sorry boys, you're just stepping stones because Dooley can only coach up his own recruits. Thanks for not backing out on your commitments when we fired Fulmer, then hired that used car salesmen and he bolted...but you aren't Dooley's recruits so it just won't work this year or next year.

GiveHimSixMoreYears writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

You gotta feel bad for the few juniors and seniors on this team. They've worked so hard to get to this point in their life and now they're told that there's no way that they can compete for a championship for the next two years because Dooley doesn't have a full roster of "his" players or the bamboo hasn't gotten enough water or whatever.

Sorry boys, you're just stepping stones because Dooley can only coach up his own recruits. Thanks for not backing out on your commitments when we fired Fulmer, then hired that used car salesmen and he bolted...but you aren't Dooley's recruits so it just won't work this year or next year.

The thing that is truely sick is the way so called fans will tolerate Dooley losing to a 1st year coach at Vandy, with half the players, and then call it progress. This youth stuff isn't only juvenile, it's sickening.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to RussellP:

Put the Vols down for a win. Everything points in that directon...they are due, and Bama is definitely due for an upset, being as overconfident as they are and being as they are certainly looking forward to the LSU game. I'm going to go all out and predict UT 24, Bama 17. GBO!

You seriously need to stop huffing paint. It's really bad for you.

givehim6 writes:

in response to TheBlue:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'v already agreed with you, yes UK is LA TECH North.

givehim6 writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

Been a Tennessee fan for many years. The most disgusting thing is how so called fans would put up with Dooley's incompetence and actually think he should stay on.

Do you really think it would be be better at UT to fall back into that coaching quagmire again by fireing a coach that is trying to help? Risk the chance the players that have learned Dooley system will not leave, let alone the kids committed for 2012? I say give CDD another year or two, This year could have looked much better if JJ had got act stright and if the Vols stayer health.

SummittsCourt writes:

The bamers played so well last week they have to have a little bit of a let down this week. Yes, indeed, an upset in the making as the ultimate David comes in to take on Goliath!

powert#205805 writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

Wait until year 3 under Dooley. It's only going to get worse. Pitiful team, more pitiful coach, most pitiful fans, who think Dooley will ever amount to anything but a 2-6 coach in the SEC

Unfortunately, you have it right.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to powert#205805:

Unfortunately, you have it right.

If we do not win at least 8 games next year, Derrick is done

FiftyOne writes:

Trolls = Pathetic loser

DannyVol writes:

Going back over 100 years, this series has been all about cycles. I think it's important for UT fans to remember that between 1995 and 2006, the Vols were 10-2 against Alabama with a 7-year run at the beginning of that stretch. Pretty sure the Alabama fans were getting impatient during that time.

bamaman1 writes:

in response to RussellP:

Put the Vols down for a win. Everything points in that directon...they are due, and Bama is definitely due for an upset, being as overconfident as they are and being as they are certainly looking forward to the LSU game. I'm going to go all out and predict UT 24, Bama 17. GBO!

I look forward to seeing your guys at BDS Saturday. I love this rivalry and I wish you luck on the rest of the season, but the real upset here is whether or not your team makes it through the game without significant injuries. Again I look forward to this game every year and I know that UT will play hard til the end unlike our friends from Gainesville.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to RussellP:

Put the Vols down for a win. Everything points in that directon...they are due, and Bama is definitely due for an upset, being as overconfident as they are and being as they are certainly looking forward to the LSU game. I'm going to go all out and predict UT 24, Bama 17. GBO!

I love my Vols, but it’s going to take a lot of liquor for me to see this game the way you do…

- Starting QB and receiver out
- Inept running game
- A defense that hasn’t figured out there are 60 minutes in a game, not 30
- And the extreme nausea I feel every time the ball is punted to us

Yeah… I’m going to need a lot of liquor before predicting victory. The time will come, but we’re not there yet. :-)

HooRay_Vol writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

Been a Tennessee fan for many years. The most disgusting thing is how so called fans would put up with Dooley's incompetence and actually think he should stay on.

Coming into the SEC is perhaps the most difficult conference to come into and win as a new coach (unless you are UF that has the state of FL to pull in top recruits). We have an OL composed of Sophomores and one Junior. Fulmer hardly recruited any OL or DL his last 2 years (go back and check the books), and Kiffin ran off what few linemen we had left with the exception of players like Revis and Anderson. We will lose our best DL next year (Jackson who was a transfer) and have a converted OL (Hood who is playing fairly well) and no real depth behind him. What happened to Couch and Jeffery? Hope that perhaps Saulsberry, Carson, or one of the new recruits can step up. How I miss the days of John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth playing side by side.

We are still rebuilding this year folks. Those complaining were only delusional that we would be outstanding this year with a mostly sophomore team. Come on! We will be good next year and GREAT the year after that. Then all the cry babies can stop whining! Dooley is only in his second year. We will be fine. Bray Hunter and Rogers, along with a more experienced line will put up some huge numbers next year. I just hope the DL play will be better.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

The thing that is truely sick is the way so called fans will tolerate Dooley losing to a 1st year coach at Vandy, with half the players, and then call it progress. This youth stuff isn't only juvenile, it's sickening.

Did I miss a game somewhere? I don't recall playing Vandy yet. Jumping ahead a little, aren't we?!?

Our bigger problem revolves more around depth than youth. However, add the two together and you have a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately when rebuilding, depth is the last thing to be repaired.

Saban_Palin writes:

in response to RussellP:

Put the Vols down for a win. Everything points in that directon...they are due, and Bama is definitely due for an upset, being as overconfident as they are and being as they are certainly looking forward to the LSU game. I'm going to go all out and predict UT 24, Bama 17. GBO!

Alice in Wonderland?

Volunatic writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

The thing that is truely sick is the way so called fans will tolerate Dooley losing to a 1st year coach at Vandy, with half the players, and then call it progress. This youth stuff isn't only juvenile, it's sickening.

What's even more ridiculous than your hypothetical situation is the fact that people who claim to be Vol fans expect UT to lose to Vandy.
Crawl back under your rock, troll.

underthehill writes:

Kiffin had his shortcomings but heaping praise on the opponent was not one of them..Dooley, this has to have a negative effect on your players..do you think they don't see these comments??

OTPVol writes:

Depth and experience take time. Chizik came into one of the best teams money could buy as did Muschamp. Not to disrespect either school, but UT was in a shambles before Coach Fulmer left and Bozo and his traveling circus of gypsies compounded the problem. Give the new AD and new coach a chance. I still think we have a winner with Coach Dooley.

alfrizzle097 writes:

Wow. You guys really need to give Dooley a chance. Not making a judgement one way or the other on him, but every game the vols have lost was to a better team with a better, deeper roster.

Losing Jackson, Lathers, Hunter, and Bray certainly hurts too.

The youth argument is still valid because when you're starting freshmen and sophomores at every position, its an indication that the guy backing them up in many cases isn't very good.

Gonna list the seniority of the backup for every position as per the ut depth chart for the montana game.

TE: fr
LT: fr
LG: fr
C: fr
RG: so
RT: fr
WR1:fr
WR2:sr
Slot:fr
QB: sr
TB: fr

LE: jr
DT: so
NT: so
RE: so

No need to go farther. So at eight positions on offense the backup is a freshman. So the guys that are starting are starting by necessity. Given how the roster was depleted, it also means that Dooley had one recruiting class to get starting quality players with no time to develop them and have them step in an juniors.

Eight starters on offense listed as sophomores. That's Dooley's first recruiting class in the year when he had no time to build relations and basically had to salvage Kiffin's class after that debacle. Not many coaches would be sucessful if they had to field 75% of an offense from one recruiting class that had been sabotaged to boot.

That also means that if any of those guys from the first class weren't as good as billed, or weren't your first choice, then you still have no choice but to start them. Who is behind them?

kyvol98 writes:

When I think of Bama, I always think of #2.....

murrayvol writes:

in response to The_Ghost_of_Duke_DeLuca:

When was the last time we were 29 point underdogs to Alabama?

When was the last time we were 29 point underdogs to anyone?

Fire Fulmer!

Sorry Dukie. You only get to do that once.

murrayvol writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

Been a Tennessee fan for many years. The most disgusting thing is how so called fans would put up with Dooley's incompetence and actually think he should stay on.

BS squared. You've never been a Tennessee fan.

But you have been on this site for one whole day though. That's huge.

Get lost trollie.

murrayvol writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

Wow. You guys really need to give Dooley a chance. Not making a judgement one way or the other on him, but every game the vols have lost was to a better team with a better, deeper roster.

Losing Jackson, Lathers, Hunter, and Bray certainly hurts too.

The youth argument is still valid because when you're starting freshmen and sophomores at every position, its an indication that the guy backing them up in many cases isn't very good.

Gonna list the seniority of the backup for every position as per the ut depth chart for the montana game.

TE: fr
LT: fr
LG: fr
C: fr
RG: so
RT: fr
WR1:fr
WR2:sr
Slot:fr
QB: sr
TB: fr

LE: jr
DT: so
NT: so
RE: so

No need to go farther. So at eight positions on offense the backup is a freshman. So the guys that are starting are starting by necessity. Given how the roster was depleted, it also means that Dooley had one recruiting class to get starting quality players with no time to develop them and have them step in an juniors.

Eight starters on offense listed as sophomores. That's Dooley's first recruiting class in the year when he had no time to build relations and basically had to salvage Kiffin's class after that debacle. Not many coaches would be sucessful if they had to field 75% of an offense from one recruiting class that had been sabotaged to boot.

That also means that if any of those guys from the first class weren't as good as billed, or weren't your first choice, then you still have no choice but to start them. Who is behind them?

You make some good points alfrizzle. Unfortunately it's lost on most of these mopes.

One bad recruiting class in the SEC is real bad. Back to back and it's catastrophic. That's the cycle Dooley's dealing with this year.

Just be thankful these folks won't make the call on his future.

Central_IL_Vol writes:

in response to kyvol98:

When I think of Bama, I always think of #2.....

BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA...............!!

As in Crimson TU#D!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to GiveHimSixMoreYears:

The thing that is truely sick is the way so called fans will tolerate Dooley losing to a 1st year coach at Vandy, with half the players, and then call it progress. This youth stuff isn't only juvenile, it's sickening.

So tell us, what was your troll name before your present troll name? Sometimes, just continuing to show up IS progress. Like darn near every other fan, I wish the team was playing better, but unlike the all-too-many clueless ones among us, I know that just stomping my feet, holding my breath, turning blue, and whining, "But I want to win RIGHT NOW, darn it!" isn't going to get it done any faster.

Besides, the Vols haven't lost to Vandy yet; heck, they haven't even lost to BAMA yet! So just go to sleep for the next six years; we MIGHT wake you up after the Vols have won a couple of championships, but probably not since we will have all gotten along fine without you.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

Wow. You guys really need to give Dooley a chance. Not making a judgement one way or the other on him, but every game the vols have lost was to a better team with a better, deeper roster.

Losing Jackson, Lathers, Hunter, and Bray certainly hurts too.

The youth argument is still valid because when you're starting freshmen and sophomores at every position, its an indication that the guy backing them up in many cases isn't very good.

Gonna list the seniority of the backup for every position as per the ut depth chart for the montana game.

TE: fr
LT: fr
LG: fr
C: fr
RG: so
RT: fr
WR1:fr
WR2:sr
Slot:fr
QB: sr
TB: fr

LE: jr
DT: so
NT: so
RE: so

No need to go farther. So at eight positions on offense the backup is a freshman. So the guys that are starting are starting by necessity. Given how the roster was depleted, it also means that Dooley had one recruiting class to get starting quality players with no time to develop them and have them step in an juniors.

Eight starters on offense listed as sophomores. That's Dooley's first recruiting class in the year when he had no time to build relations and basically had to salvage Kiffin's class after that debacle. Not many coaches would be sucessful if they had to field 75% of an offense from one recruiting class that had been sabotaged to boot.

That also means that if any of those guys from the first class weren't as good as billed, or weren't your first choice, then you still have no choice but to start them. Who is behind them?

WAY too much in the way of facts, logic, and good common sense for the mopers on here.

tnfanincali writes:

It"s good to see that there are still a few realistic fans out there not calling for Dooley to be fired after 1.5 seasons. For the rest of you, you should ask yourself, what did you expect out of this season before it began and were those expectations realistic? Go and look at what Dooley had to work with when he got here, look at what he has brought in, and look at what he has had to deal with in terms of injuries, youth, inexperience, and depth, and then ask yourself if you think he is doing an OK job or not. As fans, it is our right to complain when our team is not performing like we want them to. But when you start calling for the coaches head, are you helping things? Do you want what is best for the team in the long run, or do you just like to hear your own voice. Do you know more than those that run the program? Like a few have said on here before, a fan sticks by their team trough good times and bad. I think there are good times on the horizon, but you don't gain depth and experience overnight, or even in one season. I believe Dooley is bringing in the right players to get the team back to where we want it to be, and if given the proper time and support, I think he can do the job. If we are still having these conversations in a year or two, then maybe we should think about looking somewhere else. But for now, if you really want the team to get better, maybe criticizing everything they do is not what this team needs. It needs our support. Let's give it to them...

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

Your so full of horse chit adams...you make us sick at oput stomachs...NEVER NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT THE VOLS ALWAYS SOME NEGATIVE phooey

ttowndick writes:

Couple of things Adams forgot-
Punting has also been a weakness, so we only punted once against Ole Miss.
The offensive line getting better every week. As great as our running backs are, I coulda run through some of those holes saturday.
One last thing - when did ut's downhill slide into the abyss begin? Not long after phat phil turned secret agent man against Bama and Logan Young. We got busted, ph ph got outed and had to clean up HIS recruiting as well.
Careful what you ask for.... RTR

snakeplissken writes:

in response to ttowndick:

Couple of things Adams forgot-
Punting has also been a weakness, so we only punted once against Ole Miss.
The offensive line getting better every week. As great as our running backs are, I coulda run through some of those holes saturday.
One last thing - when did ut's downhill slide into the abyss begin? Not long after phat phil turned secret agent man against Bama and Logan Young. We got busted, ph ph got outed and had to clean up HIS recruiting as well.
Careful what you ask for.... RTR

Most reasonable Alabama fans I know are grateful now that Steve Spurrier and Phil Fulmer exposed all the cheating going on down in Tuscaloosa. While it may have pained them at the time, they realized the mess had to be purged before they would get better and now that things are better there the intelligent Alabama fans know it was the best thing that happened to them.

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