How Tennessee Can Beat Alabama

Thirty-six point ‘dogs? Yep. But there is historical precedence.

Marky Billson, Host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

It’s taken me awhile, but I finally think the move of switching to Jarrett Guarantano is a good thing.

Well, maybe.

The reason why is I’m trying to find out a way Tennessee can beat Alabama.

Yeah, is that all?

But for as great as the Alabama machine is, it should be mentioned the Crimson Tide hasn’t gone undefeated since 2009. Ole Miss defeated them in consecutive seasons.

Somehow, someway, be it through walk-on receivers catching touchdown passes to win the national championship or returning field goals 109 yards, the Crimson Tide can be beaten.

And there are certain similarities between this matchup and the 1982 game, when a .500 Tennessee team beat №2 Alabama, who had beaten the Volunteers 11 straight years.

The Crimson Tide was coming off a three-touchdown victory against Penn State, who would go on to win the national championship that year. The Vols had just tied a strong Louisiana State team, but they did it by using a three wide receiver set, considered somewhat radical at the time.

How radical? It’s 1982. Less than three years earlier the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV when Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and John Stallworth hooked up for a 74-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

The down was 3rd and 8. The Steelers had two running backs in their formation.

Almost seems silly today, doesn’t it?

But that was football in 1982. And the Vols had just made a change the great Bear Bryant couldn’t counter that would eventually make Tennessee “Wide Receiver U.” Final score, Tennessee 35, Alabama 28.

It was the last time Tennessee would face Bryant, and it was the first of four straight victories against the Tide.

Listeners to my show know of my preference for drop back passers instead of running quarterbacks and that’s the way the game is going.

But it’s also said Jones prefers the running quarterback. He had Nate Peterman, who Bills fans want to start. He had Riley Ferguson, who is rising up draft boards and just lit up Houston to the tune of a 474 yards and a 42–38 victory for the 6–1 Memphis Tigers.

Jones chose Josh Dobbs. Because he runs.

So let’s just say Guarantano, who hasn’t shown that much as a runner to date but is listed as a proverbial dual-threat quarterback, is asked to scramble his way to a victory. Alabama hasn’t seen that on film.

If the Tide wishes to blitz, then Tennessee can counter with quick passes to the outside receivers or audible to John Kelly, adept at breaking tackles, and Ty Chandler, who had a fine game against South Carolina but was forgotten in the second half.

That grinds out the clock, and keeps Alabama possession times low, turnovers at a minimum (Guarantano still hasn’t thrown an interception) and let us say on a last second field goal Tennessee wins the game!

Guarantano then becomes a four-year starter and Tennessee becomes, thanks to Butch Jones, “Running Quarterback U.” Who cares if the offensive coordinator is run off to Indiana and a tight ends coach who hasn’t called plays since high school is in charge! It’s all improvisation!

Who cares if the scrambling quarterback is obsolete in the pros, because you cannot reliably begin plays 7–10 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the NFL with the speed of the defenses? The option doesn’t work there either for the same reason but it works for Georgia Tech!

Tennessee has their niche they can win with, albeit somewhat dated. But it does bring athletes into the program. The quarterbacks that don’t cut it can be moved to receivers or defensive back.

Unlikely? For sure. Heck I’m the guy who says I never would have benched Quinten Dormady.

But just as Majors made a big change on offense in 1982 with the three receiver set the week before the Alabama game, so has Jones in 2017 with the quarterback switch.

And what else do you have to go on?

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW weekdays from 12–2 ET on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities which can be heard here.