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Tennessee preview: Vols still struggling, but look to give Alabama a fight

Tennessee preview: Vols still struggling, but look to give Alabama a fight

During Alabama’s 2009 title run, the Crimson Tide hosted an outmanned, outgunned and thoroughly mediocre Tennessee Volunteer team for what most people expected to be a blowout win.

Four quarters later, Alabama had to rely on two blocked field goals from Terrence Cody in order to advance past Tennessee – a Tennessee team coached by current Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

In the years since, Alabama has usually defeated Tennessee by a wide margin in the end. In very few of those cases, however, did Alabama dominate from start to finish. Establishing large, early leads and putting the game to bed early is a concept not often found in this series.

2014 Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

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2014 Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

If win-loss records were determined by bravado and bull hockey, Tennessee’s Butch Jones would have a team in the national title game every year. Jones has done a good job selling the illusion of improvement, but the Vols had better hope he can continue to recruit well – because success in the present day isn’t coming. Tennessee might have the league’s worst offensive and defensive lines simultaneously, certainly a first for this program and maybe the first for any SEC program not named Vanderbilt. Aside from a few bright spots at receiver and an above-average linebacker corps, Tennessee doesn’t have much. Hitting .500 this season would be a major accomplishment.

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2013 Fall Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

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2013 Fall Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

The Derek Dooley era is over in Knoxville, but the aftereffects of his regime will continue to be felt for at least a couple of years. Tennessee comes into 2013 at a severe talent disadvantage to most of its rivals, and is also both changing its defensive scheme and rebuilding on offense. Were it not for the lucky accident of having the most talented offensive line in the conference, Tennessee would be a candidate to lose 10 or 11 games. As it is, the Volunteers will have to scratch to equal last year’s 5-7 mark, and will need at least two significant upsets to get bowl-eligible. Add to this the uncertainty of just how good new coach Butch Jones really is, and the Vols could be on their way to the SEC East cellar once again.

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