Bama Can Turn the Tables on UT

It seems strange, almost surreal. For most of the past decade, the University of Alabama football team has been Tennessee's whipping boy.

Ten times, the Crimson Tide and Volunteers have met up on the gridiron. Nine times, Alabama has lost.

So while it isn't surprising considering the teams' records, it seems a bit disconcerting to look at the betting lines and predictions of various pundits and see the Crimson Tide as a consistent favorite heading into Saturday's 2:30 p.m. showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

For the first time in a long time, Alabama appears to have the upper hand over Tennessee, an edge it could maintain for an extended period.

It's just part of college football's Bizarro World.

Penn State is tied for first in the Big 10.

Notre Dame pushed mega-power USC to the wire before falling.

But the only part Crimson Tide fans care about is that Alabama is back in the nation's top five, 6-0 for the first time since 1996.

And at long last, the Tide has flipped the tables on Tennessee.

The Vols are the program with the struggling offense and offensive coordinator under fire. They're the program that can't figure out which quarterback it wants to play – the salty veteran or the hotshot youngster with the outsized ego.

They're the program holding team meetings and making guarantees of victory – the kind of boasts only desperate teams make.

In Tennessee, the ‘T' stands for turmoil.

The last time people in the Volunteer State saw Alabama, the Crimson Tide was getting serenaded with "Rocky Top" after dropping the Music City Bowl to a less-talented Minnesota team in Nashville's Coliseum. They're in for a much different picture Saturday.

Behind now-healthy starting quarterback Brodie Croyle, Alabama is a far calmer, far better team, both offensively and defensively.

Has the Tide been perfect? Far from it.

It needed Tyrone Prothro's game-changing catch to rally past Southern Miss, and only a last-ditch drive set up Jamie Christensen's game-winning field goal at Ole Miss.

But most great teams have a bump or two along the way.

Consider these two scores:

Alabama 17, Southern Miss 10 – and Alabama 13, Louisiana Tech 0. The dates of those two games?

Sept. 12, 1992 and Sept. 26, 1992, respectively. I think we all know how that season wound up.

Although the Tide has had its share of well-documented struggles over the past five years, it is appearing more and more each week that the program is emerging from a dark period as strong as it has ever been.

Mike Shula has a stable staff, which has excelled (and is excelling) in recruiting. And while NCAA probation has sapped the program's depth (which Tyrone Prothro's unfortunate injury illustrated), Alabama's overall talent level is improving with each recruiting class.

And as it does, the problems of the past are starting to fade into the background. Think about it: have you heard the words "Tommy Gallion" or "subpoena" bandied about this week?

Didn't think so.

It's a new era in Alabama football. What's past is past.

Mike DuBose is the defensive coordinator of a Division III college.

Mike Price coaches at UTEP. And Arety's Angels fired Destiny a long time ago.

Alabama has its sights set on a new, yet old destiny now: the top of the SEC and the top of college football.

Tennessee is just an obstacle – albeit a formidable one – standing in its way. Make no mistake, the Vols will put up a huge fight Saturday. They're wounded and angry, a loss or two away from yet another unwanted Peach Bowl trip.

Alabama has much bigger goals.

And they start with turning the tables on the Vols.

For Crimson Tide fans, it's a development that's long overdue.


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