Instant analysis: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13

If he wasn’t before the game, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron put himself in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy with his performance at Tennessee on Saturday. McCarron finished 17-of-22 for 306 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions as the Crimson Tide cruised 44-13.

After a sluggish start in the first half, the running game picked up in the second half as Alabama finished with 233 yards on the ground. Freshman T.J. Yeldon led the way with 129 yards and two touchdowns, including one from 43 yards out.

The Bama defense did its part as well, holding Tyler Bray and the high-powered Tennessee offense in check throughout the game. Bray finished 13-of-27 for 184 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Vols wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had just one catch in the game.

It was over when: Tennessee hung around in the first half, and had a chance to cut into the lead and make it a two-score game again late in the third quarter when Robert Lester intercepted Bray in the end zone. Alabama scored the next 14 points to put it away.

Game ball goes to: McCarron had a career night for Alabama, but the game ball goes to his go-to wide receiver, Amari Cooper. The true freshman put the Tide on the board first with a 23-yard touchdown reception, and he added another score in the second half on a 42-yard catch. Cooper finished with seven receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

Stat of the game: Alabama’s offense finished with 539 total yards of offense against Tennessee. It’s the second week in a row and the third time in the past four games that the Tide have gained more than 500 yards of total offense.

What it means for Alabama: Many thought this would be the first real test for the Tide defense, and if it was, it passed with flying colors. Combined with the performance from McCarron and Yeldon on the offensive side of the ball, Alabama showed why it’s still the No. 1 team in the country. The Tide won’t look ahead with an undefeated Mississippi State team visiting next week, but it’s never too early to eye the showdown at LSU in two weeks.

What it means for Tennessee: The stool Derek Dooley was supposed to sit on during the game just got a little warmer. Tennessee now has lost its first four SEC games to start the season, and it doesn’t get any easier next week with a road game at South Carolina. The Volunteers finish with Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but any less than six wins could signal the end of the Dooley era in Knoxville.