Tennessee vs. Alabama matchup: Is Brian Maurer ready for No. 1 Crimson Tide?
Tennessee football will have a long day of waiting Saturday.
The Vols (2-4, 1-2 SEC) face No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0) at 9 p.m. ET Saturday (ESPN) in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Here is what you need to know about the matchup:
What does the loss of Henry To'o To'o mean?
Tennessee won't have one of its starting inside linebackers for the first half against Alabama after Henry To'o To'o was ejected for targeting in the second half against Mississippi State.
It is a loss the Vols really can't afford, as To'o To'o and Daniel Bituli are the only two players with any significant experience at inside linebacker. Without To'o To'o, freshman Quavaris Crouch — who has played outside linebacker this season — is the primary option to start.
Sophomore J.J. Peterson also could see snaps as a backup.
The freshman To'o To'o is Tennessee's second-leading tackler this season with 34.
► Keep up with the Vols: Get the latest UT football news on the Knox News app
Will Brian Maurer play?
Maurer is game-time decision against Alabama, Pruitt indicated Wednesday, after the freshman suffered a concussion against Mississippi State.
So Tennessee's starting quarterback could potentially play. But the next question is whether he should. The Vols could play Jarrett Guarantano, who has more than enough starting experience, and not risk Maurer's status in a road game against the top-ranked team in the nation.
It would be another major step on a steep learning curve for Maurer, who has already played a half at Florida and faced then-No. 3 Georgia.
Can Tennessee pressure Tua Tagovailoa?
Tennessee's defensive front is flying high after a seven-sack showing against Mississippi State. The unit needed it badly and it was a jump in the right direction.
Its challenge now is facing one of the best offensive lines in the SEC. Alabama has allowed only seven sacks and 29 tackles for loss this season, both figures ranking among the top three in the SEC.
Tagovailoa is on the fast track to being a top — if not the top — pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and for obvious reasons.
The junior quarterback leads the nation with 27 passing touchdowns and has only one interception in 182 attempts. He has thrown for 2,011 yards and completed 73.6% of his passes.
He's the leader and ignites one of the best offenses in the country.
McKinney burst onto the scene last year as a sophomore safety, ranking third at Alabama with 73 tackles.
He is on pace for 94 this season, recording 47 through six games to lead Alabama and rank among the SEC's leaders. He also has an interception, a pass break-up, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
The junior safety was a second-team preseason All-American by a handful of outlets, including CBS Sports.
Tennessee's secondary against Alabama's wide receivers
Tagovailoa is an incredible talent. But the Alabama quarterback also is throwing to a stable of future NFL wide receivers.
DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle all are problems for opposing defenses. Smith, Jeudy and Ruggs rank in the top 10 in the SEC in receiving yards and have combined for 20 touchdowns in six games. Smith has nine to lead the league.
Tennessee's secondary, especially its young cornerbacks, will not face a bigger test this season.