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No. 1 Alabama heads into Tennessee heavy favorites

No. 1 Alabama heads into Tennessee heavy favorites

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry doesn't have the national relevance as it did in previous decades, but the series still has plenty of meaning to both teams.

Longtime fans make sure of it.

``It's kind of grown on me now,'' Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest said. ``Last year, I didn't know. I thought it was always Alabama-Auburn. I didn't really know about the Tennessee game. But a lot of the older fans take this game real seriously. It's bigger than Alabama-Auburn to them.''

It may not mean as much to the younger generation because it's been a while since each program was strong at the same time. The last time both teams were ranked when they faced off was in 2005, when No. 5 Alabama edged No. 17 Tennessee 6-3. This year, the top-ranked Crimson Tide are favored by three touchdowns.

Tennessee (3-3, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) has lost 10 of its last 11 conference games and is 0-13 against Top 25 opponents since Derek Dooley took over the program in 2010. Alabama (6-0, 3-0) is the defending national champion and has won each of its first six games by at least 19 points.

``They've absolutely annihilated everybody they've played, physically and on the scoreboard,'' said Dooley, who expects to coach from the press box for a second straight week as he recovers from surgery on a fractured right hip.

Although those numbers suggest a one-sided game, the Vols remain confident. They note that all of their losses came against ranked foes - No. 3 Florida, No. 13 Georgia and No. 15 Mississippi State. Each game wasn't decided until the fourth quarter.

``I just feel like these last three SEC games, it's been more bad luck than anything,'' Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson said.

Tennessee's already had some bad luck heading into this game, as an ankle injury could force the Vols to play without leading rusher Rajion Neal. Each starting quarterback in Saturday's game will be wearing a knee brace, as Alabama's A.J. McCarron bruised his right knee last week while Tennessee's Tyler Bray hurt his left knee.

Even if Neal doesn't play, this game features an intriguing matchup between Tennessee's offense and Alabama's defense.

For the first time in school history, Tennessee has scored at least 31 points in each of its first six games. Bray, who leads the SEC with 16 touchdown passes, throws to a pair of future pro receivers in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Bray works behind an offensive line that has allowed only three sacks all season. Air Force and Oklahoma State are the only Football Bowl Subdivision programs that have allowed fewer sacks.

Bray ``does a good time getting the ball out of his hand quickly and not taking sacks,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ``They probably have two of the best receivers we've played against all year. They have, by far, the biggest and best offensive line. To me, it's how do you stop all the components? They're not one-dimensional. They're one of the leading rushing teams in our conference and one of the leading passing teams in our conference. That's what makes them one of the best offensive teams in the conference, or very near the top.''

Alabama's defense has been even better. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense, scoring defense, run defense and pass efficiency defense.

``They're big, fast, physical,'' Bray said. ``They're an NFL defense.''

The potential mismatch comes when Alabama has the ball.

Alabama averages 40.5 points per game. Tennessee has allowed 43 points per game in SEC competition. Tennessee is struggling with the shift from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 alignment under new coordinator Sal Sunseri, the former Alabama linebackers coach. Sunseri's son is Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri.

Although the Vols have struggled on defense all season, Alabama isn't taking anything for granted.

``This game is more about the rivalry and less about people's record,'' Saban said.

For Tennessee, it's also about redemption.

The Vols insist they've made major progress in the last year, even though their record doesn't reflect it. They've been more competitive in SEC games this year, but that hasn't satisfied an impatient fan base. If they can pull off the upset of the year Saturday or at least give the reigning national champions a scare, the Vols can back up their claims that they're headed in the right direction.

``We all know about Alabama,'' Dooley said. ``They've been the standard of college football the last four years. It's a good opportunity for our players. We've gone toe to toe with all the teams so far. Let's see if we can do it with the best team in college football.''

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AP Sports Writer John Zenor of Tuscaloosa, Ala., contributed to this report.

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2019 NBA Draft: Lakers take De'Andre Hunter with No. 4, will reportedly trade him to Hawks

2019 NBA Draft: Lakers take De'Andre Hunter with No. 4, will reportedly trade him to Hawks

De'Andre Hunter is a Los Angeles Laker...for now.

The Virginia star and reigning ACC Defensive of the Year was selected by the Lakers with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night. However, the Lakers will send that pick to the Pelicans in the agreed-to trade for Anthony Davis, New Orleans in turn reportedly trading it to the Hawks. Thus, Hunter likely ends up in Atlanta. 

If the trade goes through, Hunter will join a talented young Hawks core which already includes Trae Young and John Collins. He would bring a championship pedigree to the team, having just won an NCAA title with UVA this past season.

"Coming off a national championship, there's no better way to try to go into the NBA," Hunter told NBC Sports Washington during an interview for the I Am The Prospect series

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

WASHINGTON -- Visuals can change everything.

It’s happened across sports in different fashion. An issue is discussed or dismissed until a troubling incident is brought to life via video in front of everyone’s eyes.

That breaking point on extended netting arrived for Major League Baseball after Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. pulled a line drive into the stands May 29. The ball struck a four-year-old girl. But, it was Almora’s reaction, as much as anything, which made the reality so stark. He was stunned and moved to tears. The player’s reaction amplified the incident to a level which forced something to be done.

Steps will be taken at Nationals Park to prevent such an incident. The team announced Thursday it will extend the protective netting up the foul line during the All-Star break. It will end just short of the foul poles. Washington has a good window to complete the work because it goes on the road following the All-Star break. The Nationals’ final pre-break home game is July 7. They don’t return to Nationals Park until July 22.

“As players, it's something that we've pushed for and advocated for years now,” Sean Doolittle said. “I think as you see exit velocities that have continued to increase and these new stadiums that are bringing fans closer and closer to the action, you're seeing balls go into the stands at really, really high speeds. It's really scary. Max broke his nose the other day on a BP pitch that was probably 50 mph and these balls are going into the seats over 100 mph.

“So, I think, hopefully, It's a way to keep fans safe while bringing them closer to the action. As somebody that watches the vast majority of games from behind a screen or chain-linked fence, I can promise you get used to it really, really quickly. It doesn't hinder your view at all. You think the most expensive seats in the stands, they're right behind home plate. People look through a net. I promise you-you can still see the game and after five minutes you don't even notice that it's there.”

Ryan Zimmerman called it a “no-brainer.” Trea Turner wants fans to be paying more attention, in addition to the netting.

“You only have to pay attention to small snippets of the game,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “I just want people to pay attention. You can’t block everybody off from a foul pop that goes over the net, that can still hit people. You’re not going to foolproof it.”

Netting in Nationals Park will be thinner than the current netting, according to the team. It will also have sections which can be raised pregame in order to allow players to interact with fans.

The Almora incident was referenced in a letter from Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner announcing the extension. The Nationals were also witnesses to an Eloy Jiménez foul ball in Chicago which struck a young fan in Chicago on June 11.

“Jiménez hit a line drive really hard foul and I saw a girl looking towards me -- I don’t know what she was looking at but was kind of looking in the outfield direction, hit her in the side of the face,” Turner said. “I heard it hit her. What sticks in my head is when I heard the ball hit her. Not good.”

Washington becomes the second team to announce a planned extension. The White Sox were the first.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Seattle on June 5 he didn’t expect league-wide changes in netting this season. Manfred cited a range of reasons from ballpark framework to fan objections. In 2015, the commissioner’s office recommended teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts. Three years later, that task was completed. The next steps have slowly begun.

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