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The Third Saturday in October: The SEC's Most Underrated Rivalry

By: John Dunn

The All Vol Call in Show

October 16, 2019

Well, it's here -- the third Saturday in October..and we all know what that means. Tennessee will take on the mighty Crimson Tide from Alabama who, shockingly, are ranked as the number one team in the nation -- again.

Many expect (as they should) Alabama to have their way with the Volunteers this weekend in a late game in Tuscaloosa. But, has it always been this way? Did the Volunteers go into this game every single year thinking they would lose? No.

Alabama now dominates the series 55-38-7. However, there was a time when the Vols gave the Tide all that they wanted and then some.

The first game between these two storied programs would end in a 6-6 tie. A score that would be indicative of many years of back-and-forth streaks of domination from one side or the other.

Tennessee's longest streak against Alabama came from 1995-2001 in which the Volunteers ripped off seven straight games against their annual SEC West foe. Tennessee is the only team to own seven consecutive victories over the Tide. Alabama is currently riding its longest winning streak in program history over the University of Tennessee at 12 games, from 2008-present

This year, the Vols play the Tide in Tuscaloosa for only the 14th time in series history, with Alabama leading 9-4 on their home turf. With most expectations favoring the Tide, there are many things that lie beneath what you see when you look at this "David vs. Goliath" situation.

In the past, this game featured two of the greatest head coaches in college football history. General Robert Neyland and Paul "Bear" Bryant. Neyland claimed four national titles leading the Volunteers in 1938, 1940, 1950 and 1951. Bryant tallied six in 1961, 1964, 65, 1973, 1978 and 1979. However, in seven meetings, Bryant was never able to best Neyland, falling five times with two ties. Each have their team's stadium named after them.

This game may not feature two legendary coaches this year (it does feature one) but it features a Heisman candidate, a plethora of NFL talent and two hard-hitting teams from the SEC. But this game is also much more than meets the eye.

This game bolsters not only the two main giants of the SEC historically, but two of the most storied programs in college football history.

Alabama's 17 national championships rank first all-time in NCAA history. Their 911-329-43 win/loss record is good for the fourth spot on the all-time list. Their 70 bowl games rank first all-time, their 121 weeks as the top team in the nation is good for first all-time and their 31 conference championships are good for seventh all-time.

Tennessee's six national championships give the Vols a top-10 spot at number nine on the all-time list. Their 840-394-53 record is the 12th best winning percentage of all-time with their 840 victories giving them the 10th spot all-time in the annals of NCAA history.

What we have in 2019 with Tennessee versus Alabama is a mere shadow of what this great rivalry used to be. However, what we also have in 2019 are two teams draped in historical success (one just a little more than the other) that hang their hats on the pedigree and traditions they have each built at their respective universities through decades of trial and error.

With Alabama and Tennessee having "bigger rivals" in Auburn and Florida respectively, the third Saturday in October has fallen by the way side. It has been expected of the Tide to triumph over the Volunteers for over a decade now.

However, before too long, Tennessee will be back (and they will be back) and this game will once again be at the forefront of the college football world. Television screens across the country will glow with orange and crimson as the great universities of Tennessee and Alabama collide on the third Saturday in October.

So, before you think of this game as "just another blow-out", dig a little deeper -- see the history of this series and realize that is going exactly how it has gone for the duration of this gargantuan match up. It may be right now, but soon enough, this game will not be the most underrated rivalry in the SEC anymore.

General Robert R. Neyland

Paul "Bear" Bryant


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