3DownNation’s CanCon Game of the Week: No. 2 Alabama at Tennessee

Photo courtesy: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

College football just keeps getting better.

If you’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer number of Canadians dominating south of the border, just wait until you get a look at this next group. The Big Ten and Mountain West start play this week with a contingent of Canadians as good as anything we’ve seen thus far.

That will only make prognostication tougher, but I’ve been satisfied with my results so far this year. Last week, I nailed 10 of the 15 matchups featuring Canadians, including the prediction and spread on our game of the week. That makes it a respectable 50-of-68 on the season with the best still to come.

While the new conferences in action will have everyone talking, this week’s CanCon Game of the Week goes back to some familiar faces as they get ready to split the allegiances of their shared hometown.

No. 2 Alabama (-21.5) at Tennessee
Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN
Saturday, October 17 at 12:30 p.m. PST/ 3:30 p.m. EST
Where to View: 

They call it the Third Saturday in October Rivalry but since this is actually the fourth, let’s just rename it the Battle of Brampton.

In a game loaded with offensive weaponry, two of the Southeastern Conference’s finest receivers will go head-to-head and they both hail from the Flower City. John Metchie III of Alabama and Josh Palmer of Tennessee have joined Chuba Hubbard as the poster boys for a new era of Canadian dominance in the NCAA. When they meet in Knoxville, it will be for all the bragging rights in the 905.

Palmer is the elder statesman of the two, paving the way for his Canadian brethren in college football’s toughest conference. Easily the Volunteers’ best player offensively, the senior is firmly on the NFL’s radar and will likely be invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl come year’s end, just as highly-drafted Canadians Chase Claypool and Neville Gallimore were before him.

Through four games, Palmer leads his team with 15 catches for 238 yards and three touchdowns but he’s been held back by the poor talent around him. Last week was a prime example — Palmer only caught one pass for 11 yards in a blowout loss to Kentucky, mainly because starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Guarantano’s job is on thin ice and while he is expected to start Saturday, one slip up too many could see freshman Harrison Bailey take over.

Alabama’s defence has shown vulnerabilities previously unthinkable this season — just look at their shootout with Ole Miss a few weeks ago — but they are still a very talented group. Palmer will see a heavy dose of cornerback Patrick Surtain II in man coverage, a player who has been projected as high as fourth overall in the 2021 NFL draft. It’s set to be a heavyweight tilt that could sky rocket the Canadian’s pro prospects if he performs, but that will be awful hard to do without a reliable passer.

On the other side, Metchie III might be part of one of the most talented receiving corps in NCAA history. Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith will both be gone in the first round in 2021, just as Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs were this year.

Metchie has been more than content to play the role of third option. In any other offence his 348 yards receiving and three touchdowns might be the team leader. Not at Alabama, where Mac Jones can pick his favourite matchup and milk it all game long or simply hand the ball off to the dominant Najee Harris in the backfield.

Tennessee’s defence simply isn’t good enough to compete with that, especially after surrendering 44 points to Georgia and 34 to Kentucky in back-to-back weeks. Metchie lll is always good for a few big plays a game but this has the potential to be one of those days where everyone has eye-popping numbers.

Nobody would be dumb enough to bet against Alabama, but if you are looking to capitalize on a lofty spread, be cautious. Tennessee is a mess from top to bottom despite Palmer’s best efforts and they won’t be able to go shot for shot with the Crimson Tide like Ole Miss did or even challenge early like Georgia. The spread could be covered by halftime and the only thing that might change that later is how much Alabama takes their foot off the gas.

Pick straight-up: Alabama
Pick against the spread: Alabama (-21.5)

Other Week 8 NCAA games featuring Canadians

Illinois at No. 14 Wisconsin (-19.5)
CanCon: Chase Brown, RB, SO (Ill), Sydney Brown, FS, JR (Ill)
Pick: Wisconsin

No. 3 Notre Dame (-10) at Pittsburgh
CanCon: Jared Wayne, REC, SO (Pitt), Liam Dick, OL, FR (Pitt)
Pick: Notre Dame

Syracuse at No. 1 Clemson (-46)
CanCon: Geoff Cantin-Arku, MLB, SO (Syr), Matthew Bergeron, LT, SO (Syr), Tyrell Richards, OLB, JR (Syr), Ben Labrosse, FS, FR (Syr), Patrick Davis, OL, SR (Syr), Damian Alford, REC, FR (Syr), Ajou Ajou, REC, FR (Clem)
Pick: Clemson

Nebraska at No. 5 Ohio State (-26)
CanCon: Barron Miles Jr, REC, FR (Neb)
Pick: Ohio State

No. 23 NC State at No. 14 North Carolina (-15)
CanCon: Daniel Joseph, DE, SR (NCSt), Patrice Rene, CB, SR (UNC)
Pick: North Carolina

Georgia Southern at No. 25 Coastal Carolina (-6)
CanCon: Enock Makonzo, WLB, JR (CC), Wilt Gabe II, DE, SO (CC)
Pick: Coastal Carolina

Auburn (-3) at Ole Miss
CanCon: Tavius Robinson, OLB, JR (Miss), Deane Leonard, CB, SR (Miss)
Pick: Auburn

Southern Miss at Liberty (-11.5)
CanCon: John Kourtis, OL, SO (Lib)
Pick: Liberty

No. 17 Iowa State at No. 6 Oklahoma State (-3.5)
CanCon: Chuba Hubbard, RB, JR (OKSt), Amen Ogbongbemiga, MLB, SR (OKSt)
Pick: Iowa State

No. 8 Penn State (-6) at Indiana
CanCon: Jonathan Sutherland, FS, JR (PSt), Jesse Luketa, LB, JR (PSt), Theo Johnson, TE, FR (PSt), Malick Meiga, REC, FR (PSt), DK Bonhomme, LB, SO (Ind)
Pick: Penn State

Houston (-15) at Navy
CanCon: Olivier Charles-Pierre, NT, SR (Hou)
Pick: Houston

Iowa (-3) at Purdue
CanCon: Alaric Jackson, LT, SR (Iowa)
Pick: Purdue

Georgia Tech at Boston College (-3.5)
CanCon: Ezechiel Tieide, REC, SO (BC)
Pick: Boston College

West Virginia (-3.5) at Texas Tech
CanCon: Alonzo Addae, FS, SR (WV), Akheem Mesidor, DE, FR (WV)
Pick: West Virginia

Utah State at Boise State (-16.5)
CanCon: Isaiah Bagnah, LB, FR (BSt)
Pick: Boise State

No. 18 Michigan (-3) at No. 21 Minnesota
CanCon: Luiji Vilain, DE, SR (Mich), Benjamin St-Juste, CB, SR (Minn), Tyrell Lawrence, OL, FR (Minn)
Pick: Minnesota

Hawai’i at Fresno State (-4)
CanCon: Nick Mardner, REC, SO (HI), Alex Dumais, DT, SO (FrSt), Dontae Bull, OT, JR (FrSt)
Pick: Hawaii

Virginia at No. 11 Miami (-12.5)
CanCon: Terrell Jana, REC, SR (Vir)
Pick: Miami

Louisiana Tech (-2) at UTSA
CanCon: Gabe Siemieniec, PK, SR (LATech)
Pick: Louisiana Tech

No. 9 Cincinnati at No. 16 SMU (-2.5)
CanCon: Bruno Labelle, TE, SR (Cin)
Pick: Cincinnati

Texas State at No. 12 BYU (-29)
CanCon: Samuel Obiang, NT, SO (TexSt)
Pick: BYU

UNLV at San Diego State (-14.5)
CanCon: Daniel Okpoko, DE, SO (SDSt)
Pick: San Diego State

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.