It’s Tennessee vs. Alabama.
That’s all that needs to be said.
The Third Saturday in October is one of the most storied rivalries in college football. The two teams have met 92 times, with the Crimson Tide holding a slight series edge, 47-38-7
It’s a historical rivalry dominated by streaks, especially by the Crimson Tide. Alabama won 11 straight games from 1971-1981 and nine straight games from 1986-1994. Tennessee did win seven straight from 1995-2001.
The first big game in the series took place in 1929. Vols halfback Gene McEver received the game’s opening kickoff and ran 98 yards for a touchdown. UT would go on to win 6-0. That game was the turning point for Southern football and, specifically, the Tennessee football program. Following that game, UT would earn national recognition for its win.
Until then, only Alabama was an established Southern team, playing in the Rose Bowl in 1926 and ’27 before that season. Afterward, Tennessee would go on to play in Pasadena, Ca., in 1940 and ’45.
Arguably the two greatest coaches in SEC history, Gen. Robert Neyland in Knoxville and Paul “Bear” Bryant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., spend the majority of their coaching tenures at the two schools.
Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-34, 1936-40 and 1946-52, taking a break to serve during World War II. He won seven conferences championships and his teams were voted national champions by at least one poll in three seasons. Bryant coached the Crimson Tide from 1958-82 and won 14 SEC title and six national championships.
For the record, Neyland sported a lifetime 5-0 record against the Bear.
Memorable games in the series (for Vols fans at least), include the 1982 and 1995 games. In ’82, the Vols ended an 11-game losing streak to the Tide by stopping Alabama in its own end zone late in the fourth quarter, preserving a 35-28 victory in Koxville.
The ’95 game had no late-game drama. After losing each of the past nine seasons to the Tide, then-sophomore UT quarterback Peyton Manning led the Vols to a 41-14 victory, which included an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joey Kent on the game’s first play.
Games in 2005 and 2008 are ones Vols fans would like to forget. In ’05, during an offensive slugfest, UT was driving deep in Alabama’s red zone late in the fourth quarter for a go-ahead score when fullback Corey Anderson fumbled a screen pass that bounced about 15 yards through the back of the end zone for a touchback. After a third-and-long conversion, Alabama kicked a last-second field goal to win 6-3.
The ’08 game saw the Crimson Tide dominate from the start. What is memorable are the 20,000 or so Alabama fans taking over Neyland Stadium in the game’s final quarter in what seemed to be the final nail in former UT coach Philip Fulmer’s tenure at Tennessee.
Another former UT coach, Bill Battle, was an assistant at Alabama under Bryant before being hired as the head coach of the Vols in 1970. Long-time Fulmer offensive coordinator and current Duke coach David Cutcliffe is also a graduate of Alabama.
This Saturday, the Vols will host the Crimson Tide as decisive underdogs. Regardless of the teams’ records, it’s still Tennessee vs. Alabama, and the game will be the first meeting between Tennessee first-year coach Derek Dooley and mentor, Alabama coach Nick Saban.
With the records thrown out the window, a win over the Crimson Tide would deem this season a successful one for the Vols by many fans’ standards.
In reality, Vols fans are just hoping to not endure the Alabama band playing “Rammer, Jammer” as the game’s clock hits zero.
Regardless, fans of both schools should sit back and enjoy the rich pageantry the Tennessee-Alabama game produces, even though it’s now being playing on the fourth weekend of October.
—Matt Dixon is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vols, Crimson Tide rivalry streaky
It’s Tennessee vs. Alabama.