Previewing three matchups for the Alabama defense in the top-ranked Crimson Tide's SEC matchup against Tennessee (4-3, 1-2 in SEC).
Lake has posted eight of the 11 tackles he's made this season in the last two weeks.
Alabama nose tackles 99 Brandon Ivory (6'4, 310, Jr.) and 95 Darren Lake (6'3, 324, So.) and defensive ends 8 Jeoffrey Pagan (6'4, 290, Jr.) and 86 A'Shawn Robinson (6'4, 320, Fr.) vs. Tennessee center 64 James Stone (6'3, 291, Sr.) and offensive guards 72 Zach Fulton (6'5, 323, Sr.) and 78 Alex Bullard (6'2, 302, Sr.).
From the UA perspective: Offensively, Tennessee's base formation is a three wide receiver formation that includes an H back. With that, it will be interesting to see how the Alabama defense approaches a spread attack that has run the football 57 percent of the time so far this season.
In their respective wins over the Vols, Georgia and Florida, a pair of defenses that base out of a 3-4 alignment, both used a nose tackle over Stone on early downs before going to a four-down look in passing situations.
There have been rumblings about Ivory's availability for this week's game, so Lake's presence may prove critical at a position that isn't especially deep. The sophomore has been effective while spelling Ivory of late, posting eight tackles in his last two games. Beyond Lake, Robinson and Pagan are possibilities to man the point of the defense.
From the Tennessee perspective: In Stone, Bullard and Fulton, the Vols will trot out a trio of seniors who have a combined 87 starts to their credit. These guys are no strangers to Alabama, with Fulton having made three starts against the Crimson Tide, while Stone and Bullard have each made two starts in the series.
Who gets the nod?: The Crimson Tide took over as the SEC's top rush defense following last week's win over Arkansas. While the Hogs' final stat line of 165 rushing yards looked good in the box score, only 63 of those came in the first half.
As for Tennessee, its ground game hasn't eclipsed the 100-yard mark against Alabama since 2010. The Vols rushed for 92 yards in the 2011 game and 79 yards a season ago. Look for UT to eclipse the century mark this time around. The question is, will the outcome still be in question when it does it? Even.
Alabama inside linebackers 32 CJ Mosley (6'2, 232, Sr.) and 33 Trey DePriest (6'2, 245, Jr.) vs. Tennessee running backs 20 Rajion Neal (5'11, 212, Sr.) and 15 Marlin Lane (5'11, 205, Jr.).
From the UA perspective: As productive as Mosley has been in his career, he has the same number of starts against the Vols as DePriest: one. The duo entered the week on a bit of a tackle for loss tear, having combined to post seven stops behind the line in the last five games.
From the Tennessee perspective: In his last three outings, Neal has rushed for 394 yards and four touchdowns. It's been a workman like effort for the senior as he carried a combined 77 times in games against South Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. An ankle injury forced Neal to miss last season's meeting with UA.
In serving as Neal's backup, Lane has contributed 335 rushing yards and four touchdowns this season while appearing in six games. The junior made his first career start against Alabama in 2012, gaining 103 all-purpose yards (55 rushing and 48 receiving) in a loss to the Crimson Tide.
Who gets the nod?: Similar challenge for Mosley and DePriest as a week ago, although the Tennessee offensive line represents a step up in experience and overall talent from what Arkansas put on the field in Tuscaloosa. With Mosley leading the way, the Alabama defense hasn't given up a rushing touchdown in five games and has surrendered just two all season.
The Vols' lone rushing touchdown in the last 11 quarters of this series came from its starting middle linebacker. A.J. Johnson, who doubled as the UT's short-yardage specialist a season ago, found the end zone from two yards out in last year's meeting. Edge to UA.
Alabama safeties 6 HaHa Clinton-Dix (6'1, 208, Jr.) and 26 Landon Collins (6'0, 215, So.) vs. Tennessee quarterback 14 Justin Worley (6'4, 222, Jr.).
From the UA perspective: With Vinnie Sunseri lost for the remainder of the season, Clinton-Dix's return from suspension couldn't have been more timely. In terms of one player complementing the other, teaming the ball-hawking junior with Collins, who seems at home playing closer to the line of scrimmage, should work well.
From the Tennessee perspective: Give Worley credit for being resilient. He responded to being benched in the third week of the season about as well as any UT supporter could have hoped.
Worley's confidence is on the rise after completing 36 of 65 passes for 394 yards and two touchdowns in games against Georgia and South Carolina. More importantly, he didn't thrown a pick in either of those contest.
Who gets the nod?: Clinton-Dix's interception against Arkansas last week was the first by a UA safety this season not named Sunseri. Between his safety and dime back duties, Collins has been active in coverage, posting a team-high five pass breakups.
Worley has developed a budding relationship with true freshman wide receiver Marquez North, who leads the Vols in receiving yards (281). The youngster is coming off his first career 100-yard receiving performance and has show the ability to beat double coverage.
While Worley has seemingly found a comfort zone, it's important to note that his improved play has come at home. Saturday will mark his first road start since the Vols' 59-14 loss at Oregon on Sept. 14. He'll need a strong showing away from Neyland Stadium before UT fans will fully embrace the thought of the junior leading the program over the next season and a half. Edge to UA.