KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Alabama is a team with two personalities.
At home, the third-ranked Crimson Tide is as dominant as ever. On the road, Alabama’s a bit more vulnerable.
That pattern nearly ended Saturday when Alabama grabbed a 27-0 lead at Tennessee. Then Alabama (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern) became too comfortable and allowed Tennessee (3-5, 0-4) to make a game of it before the Tide closed out a 34-20 victory.
“We didn’t play a complete game, in my opinion, in terms of the way we started,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “If you want to be a dangerous team, if you want to be a dominant team, you’ve got to be able to sustain for 60 minutes in the game, and we were not able to do that.”
That’s something Alabama has done consistently at home.
Alabama has won its four home games by an average of 40.3 points. Alabama is 3-1 away from Bryant-Denny Stadium — including a 33-23 neutral-site victory over West Virginia in Atlanta — and one of its road victories was a one-point decision over Arkansas.
Alabama visits No. 16 LSU on Nov. 8 after an open date this week. LSU showed how dangerous it can be at home Saturday by winning 10-7 over Ole Miss, a result that dropped the Rebels from third to seventh in the Top 25.
Alabama believes it’s getting better away from home. Quarterback Blake Sims said the Tide’s communication at Tennessee was much better than in its previous two road games — a 23-17 loss at Ole Miss and a 14-13 victory at Arkansas. Alabama was 11-of-15 on third-down conversions against a Tennessee team that entered the night leading the SEC in third-down defense.
“We were very confident when we came into the game,” Sims said. “We had a lot of momentum coming in, and we were very emotional.”
Alabama was coming off a 59-0 rout of Texas A&M and seemed well on its way to a blowout when it scored the first 27 points. But it couldn’t dominate from start to finish the way it had a week ago.
“I think we’ve got a team that’s sort of up and down a little bit,” Saban said. “I think consistency in performance is what’s going to be the key to being successful down the road.”