Kevin C. Cox
Alabama's relentless machine dismantled Tennessee, which is now fighting for its postseason life
Before Saturday night, it was pretty easy to determine which side fell short during what has become Tennessee's three-game losing streak. In losing to Georgia by a touchdown and Mississippi State by 10, the Volunteers had given up a combined 92 points while scoring 75 of their own.
But in the 31-point Alabama romp on Saturday, both sides collapsed and the Derek Dooley Era was almost metaphorically represented by the man himself, as he tried to maneuver the sidelines on a pair of crutches. Tennessee allowed 539 yards of total offense while mustering only 282 itself. Tyler Bray completed less than 50 percent of his passes and tossed two interceptions before leaving the game.
For Alabama, AJ McCarron was 17-of-22 for 306 yards and four touchdowns and a gaudy 254.11 passer rating. Amari Cooper went off, grabbing seven catches for 162 yards and and two scores. The Tide's punishing ground game churned out 233 yards on 45 carries.
Next up for the Tide are three games that will likely decide whether their national title designs will survive: Mississippi State, at LSU and Texas A&M. Get past that trio and it's hard to see Western Carolina or Auburn derailing Alabama in Tuscaloosa in its last two games.
Tennessee, meanwhile, travels to Columbia to face the Gamecocks in the one place on the planet where South Carolina seems to play well. Then it's a four-game sprint against Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to find out whether and where the Vols will play when the regular season is over. And just how long the slide will last.