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Numbers matter, but perhaps none more than one in the Tennessee-Alabama game

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When Tennessee takes on top-ranked Alabama, the magic number for the Vols is 30.

Josh Heupel has never won a game as a head coach without scoring at least 30 points. His record when he does: 40-7. He has lost twice at UT when scoring 30 (Pitt and Purdue).

Alabama is 39-0 in the past five years when holding opponents to less than 30 points, but the Tide is 4-4 when opponents score at least 30 points. Ole Miss and Texas A&M have beaten the Tide when scoring 30.

So if the Vols can get to 30 against Nick Saban’s defense, Tennessee has a real chance to upset the 9-point favorites at Neyland Stadium. Kickoff is 3:37 pm on CBS.

Getting to 30 is no easy chore. Tennessee hasn’t scored 30 points against Alabama since a 51-43 five-overtime victory in 2003. Before that, UT hit 30 four times in seven years.

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Tennessee is averaging 46.8 points per game and leads the SEC in total offense at 547.8 yards per game.

Alabama ranks second in the SEC in scoring defense (12.5 points per game) and first in total defense (250.8 yards per game). The Tide also allows just 84.5 rush yards per game.

Tennessee should be able to move the ball on a stout Alabama defense, but can the Vols get to 30 points?

If UT has a healthy wideout Cedric Tillman, the Vols could get to 30.

Without him, the task will be more difficult.

But when you’ve got Hendon Hooker at the controls, anything is possible.

With ESPN’s GameDay descending on Knoxville for the second time in three weeks – a rarity – we will see a matchup of teams that are each undefeated for the first time since 1989. The Tide won that contest 47-30 at Legion Field, thanks to quarterback Gary Hollingsworth and running back Siran Stacy.

Dave Hooker, Amanda LaFratta and Chris Landry break down the Tennessee-Alabama game

Alabama has been the higher ranked team each year since 2008, seven times sitting at No. 1.

But the previous 14 years (1989-2002) Tennessee was the higher ranked team 11 times. Once neither was ranked.

Since 1989, both teams have been in the top 10 six times.

“I expect it to be, as far as our approach from our guys, expect it to be like it has been,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said of UT’s preparation. “Everybody understands the opponent that we have.

“Everyone knows who is coming to town and the opportunity that we have. I expect next Saturday to be an electric atmosphere. Can’t imagine it won’t be louder, more hostile than it was for Florida. Looking forward to that.”

Tennessee has defeated three ranked teams already this season. But taking down the Tide (ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll) will be a monumental task. UT has defeated only two top-ranked teams in program history.

“I think our players have great belief in each other,” Heupel said.

“At the end of the day our challenge is to be plus one or more (in turnover ratio) at the end of the football game, however that looks. Our guys are prideful. They care. They work, they compete. That’s why they’re going to continue to get better.”

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