TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tennessee thought it had improved in the six weeks since getting routed by No. 2 Oregon on Sept. 14.
Maybe so, but it didn’t look that way Saturday as No. 1 Alabama breezed to a 45-10 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium, staying on track to play for a third consecutive national title.
The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) required only three plays to score after the opening kickoff and set the tone for the crucial first half.
T.J. Yeldon rushed for three of Alabama’s touchdowns as the Crimson Tide extended its winning streak over the Vols to seven straight in the Nick Saban Era.
All 10 of Tennessee’s points came with freshman Josh Dobbs at quarterback in the second half.
Rajion Neal’s 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter was UT’s only trip to the end zone and was the first touchdown allowed at home by the Tide this year.
It was 21-0 after one quarter as Alabama quickly drained the drama out of this edition of the historic rivalry.
The Vols almost got to the half down only 28-0 but Alabama’s Landon Collins returned an interception off Justin Worley 89 yards for a touchdown with only 12 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Vols (4-4, 1-3 SEC) came to Alabama buoyed by an upset of No. 11-ranked South Carolina a week earlier, ending a 19-game string of losses to ranked teams.
Starting another streak Saturday was almost inevitable, considering Alabama was a 28.5-point favorite.
Still, Tennessee expected to be more competitive than in the 59-14 loss at Oregon. That wasn’t the case, at least not in the first half.
Alabama scored on its first four possessions and was on the verge of making it five when Kenyon Drake fumbled at the Tennessee 1 and Cameron Sutton recovered.
The Vols were on their best drive of the half — thanks to a 43-yard bomb from Worley to Cody Blanc. But two plays later, Worley looked for North and instead found Collins at the UT 11.
Collins motored down the sideline, more or less unmolested to make it a 35-0 lead and squelch any semblance of Tennessee momentum.
When the Vols finally got on the scoreboard — a 37-yard Michael Palardy field goal in the third quarter — it was on a drive led by Dobbs.
Dobbs started the second half after a rough half by Worley in which he threw two interceptions and appeared to aggravate an injury to his throwing hand from the South Carolina game.
Neal’s TD came at the end of a nine-play, 55-yard drive on which Dobbs converted a fourth-down pass for first-and-goal at the Alabama 3.
The touchdown answered a 98-yard Alabama drive that ended in Yelden’s 1-yard run, his third score of the day.
The second half was a 10-10 draw but Alabama had already won the first half 35-0 to decide the day.
Alabama outgained UT 479 yards to 322.
Worley was 8-of-15 passing for 120 yards, all in the first half. Dobbs was 5-of-12 for 75 yards in the second.
Neal rushed 13 times for 70 yards. North caught four passes for 87 yards.