Alabama-Tennessee Is The Greatest

Alabama vs. Tennessee. The mere mention of the game, the time of year, this year on the bank of the Tennessee River. Through the years the names change, but the setting and the lineage of this great rivalry is unsurpassed. I have said it before and I will say it again: I don't care what the records are, I don't care who the coaches are, or where the game is played. This is the big one.

And I am not alone.

"To some people around here, this is the biggest game we play every year," said 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. "It matters to a lot of people. That's one of the first things you learn about when you come to Alabama. Beating Tennessee is certainly important, so we need to play well on Saturday."

Anyone who believes the Vols will be a pushover on Saturday does not understand the tradition. "Did you see the game last year?" asked native Tennessean Alex Watkins. "That should tell you all you need to know."

Tennessee limps in at 2-4 having been manhandled most recently by a resurgent UGA. But this same bunch of Vols went to "Death Valley" and other than the crazy bounces and luck of the voodoo of Les Miles, completely outplayed the Bayou Bengals. The Vols also played toe to toe with number one Oregon earlier in the year until the dam broke. So the Vols are very dangerous; and ruining Alabama's shot at a second straight SEC title and BCS shot would make the decade for the Orange Nation.

"I think you can kind of throw out everything, from record, what happened last week, in the first game of the year and all that stuff," Alabama Coach Nick Saban added. "This is a big game for both teams, and they certainly have a very capable team. I think (Tennessee Coach) Derek (Dooley) has done a fantastic job with the team that he has. They're well-coached, they play sound and they put themselves in a position to have a chance to win games against good competition. The quarterback has done a nice job for them. The tailback has done a nice job for them. They've had balance on offense. Their defense plays very aggressively and plays with a lot of spirit. This is going to be a difficult game for us and we need to focus on playing our best football of the year."

Keith Jackson once said; "This is a series of legendary people and moments. If you want to be a legend in sports, all you got to do is win the big games every once in a while and leave a lot of quotes. Quotes like these from General Bob Neyland who said 'Touchdowns follow blocking just like night follows day.' Wallace Wade of Alabama 'Nobody ever wins a football game. Somebody loses it.' Or Paul W Bryant every Thursday night before the annual battle with the Volunteers, he simply said to his warriors. 'Be Brave!'"

Nick Saban is 3-0 against Tennessee. He understands how big this game is to the fans. His teams have performed very well in clutch situations over the past three seasons, none better and bigger than last year and the blocked field goal that kept Alabama undefeated and in position to win the national title. His players have all learned just like he, that this game is something special.

"I did not know or have any idea how big this game was till I actually played in it last year." Trent Richardson said. "As they lined up to kick that field goal me and Mark (Ingram) just prayed that we would block it. (Terrence) Cody told us he was going to block it just like he'd blocked the first one, and that's exactly what he did. It saved our season and Cody actually ran straight to me but I had to get out of his way. I did not want him to fall on me and injure me."

The point is simple. Moments in this game are turned into legend as the block of Daniel Lincoln's field goal is now preserved in hundreds of Alabamians' homes and offices in yet another Daniel Moore masterpiece.

The importance of this game in terms of being a champion? In Alabama's SEC Championship years, the Tide is 19-1-2 against the Vols. In Tennessee's SEC Championships seasons, the Vols have an 11-2 record against the Crimson Tide. If you are going to be a champion, you almost certainly have to win this game.

"Alabama and Tennessee is a really big rivalry game," sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "I'm sure they are pretty pumped up about it, just like we are. You can throw all the records and stats out the window; in any SEC game, they don't really matter."

"It's an honor to play in this game," senior UT linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "This is my first time to start against Alabama so it's not hard to get up for this one."

UT Coach Derek Dooley knows all about traditions in the Southeastern Conference. Although this is his first game in the historic series, he knows that Saturday's contest will be a little different than most other Saturdays in the fall.

"So it's going to be a great opportunity for our players and a good responsibility on how we compete," Dooley said. "We are going against a phenomenal football team that's been kind of a standard in college football the last two years. Deep, talented, well-coached. We all know about them.

"This is what makes the SEC special and what makes this place special," Dooley said. "It's a great honor to be able to play in games like this."

Luke Stocker, the senior UT tight end, has the same feeling as his Crimson counterparts. "A ton of history in this competition, both teams want to win this game so badly, guys going out there laying their blood and guts out on the field," Stocker said. "It's really exciting and a big opportunity to be a part of it."

That about sums it up. No matter how you slice it, this is the greatest rivalry in the South and one of the most anticipated weeks on the schedule for everyone wearing Crimson and Orange. Don't ever let the records get in the way of a great rivalry game.

Like the legendary Keith Jackson said about this game in 1991, "Analyzin' is paralyzin'. Let's play this blame thing!"

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