It’s called the Alabama Affect. That’s what Tennessee Football is facing Saturday. Many teams don’t play well the week after facing the Crimson Tide.
Maybe they’ve come off an emotional win. Or a heart-breaking defeat. Or a one-sided butt whippin’. Or a tough, physical battle.
For Tennessee Football, the Vols must make sure the 34-20 loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium doesn’t carry over to an SEC contest at the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday.
So, how has Tennessee fared in the next contest after 15 previous losses to Alabama with Nick Saban as coach?
The Vols are 6-9 with two wins in overtime over South Carolina and a win over Kentucky by a field goal.
Six losses were to South Carolina, and one each to Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas.
Is this Tennessee team (5-2, 2-2 SEC) mature enough to bounce back from a heart-breaking defeat at Alabama, a game in which UT led 13-0 and 20-7?
It won’t be easy.
Tennessee suffered a loss at Bama for several reasons.
- The Vols kicked two field goals after penetrating the Alabama 10-yard line, failing to put more points on the board and extend its first-half lead.
- Josh Heupel went for two fourth-downs with a lead in his own territory. Both were ill advised. Some have suggested Heupel doesn’t know how to coach when he has a stout defense. I’m not sure about that. But Heupel’s gambles didn’t work.
- Officials didn’t cost UT the game, but a couple of awful calls to start the second half created momentum for Alabama, and UT didn’t recover. An obvious offensive holding was missed on a TD pass to start the third quarter, and the invalid fair catch signal was a nit-pick call that cost UT field position and led to a Tide field goal.
- Once Alabama seized momentum in the second half, Tennessee Football didn’t match the Tide’s intensity. And it appeared Saban made more favorable adjustments than did UT.
The fair-catch debacle was intriguing.
Here’s what happened: UT’s Jeremiah Telander, who is on the front line of kickoff returns, pointed toward the direction of the ball after it was kicked. An official made a Barney Fife-like call and ruled an invalid signal. By the letter of the law, it was the correct call. But much like a marginal hold that occurs 30 yards from the ball, the invalid fair catch signal should have been a no call. Instead, UT started the possession on its 4-yard line, ran three times and punted, setting Bama up with good field position.
Contrary to what the CBS announcers said, the invalid signal wasn’t called on Dee Williams.
So now Tennessee must recover when it travels to Kentucky (5-2, 2-2). The Wildcats are coming off an open date.
Tennessee’s mettle will be tested.
Joe Milton’s mettle will be tested.
Josh Heupel’s mettle will be tested.
Because if UT is negatively affected by the Bama defeat and falls to Kentucky, the Vols might be headed for a 7-5 season.
And that would be a major disappointment coming off an 11-win campaign.