Has Tide Vs. UT Lost Its Mystique?

The Third Saturday in October was always reserved for the annual showdown between Alabama and Tennessee. It was the day that was always set aside for the clash of what was then the two best football programs in the South. The Third Saturday has always been very special to Alabama and Tennessee fans. It was considered the Volunteers' and the Crimson Tide's biggest game of the year.



For those of us who grew up as Alabama fans back in the '60s, "The Third Saturday" had no equal. During the '60s the only team that represented any real threat to Alabama's dominance of Southern football was the Tennessee Volunteers.

In those days, Alabama's goal was always the National Championship, and on more than one occasion Tennessee played the spoiler for Alabama's quest for another National Championship.



This story originally appeared at BleacherReport.com



Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant hated Tennessee with a passion. It was a hate that began in his playing days, and continued through his days as a coach at Kentucky and Alabama, and did not end until his death in 1983.

Bryant once played in the Tennessee game with a broken leg, and saw this match as more than a game, it was a war between the states of Alabama and Tennessee.

Both teams circled this game on their schedules as the day they would prove themselves, and many of those games became instant classics.

The teams were pretty evenly matched from 1960 to 1970 as shown by their 5-5-1 record.

Close games were common, and two games in 1966 and 1968 that were determined by just one point, and one game ended in a tie in 1965.

Now that is what I call a rivalry!

After 1970 it became a different kind of rivalry, it became a rivalry of streaks.

Alabama did not lose a game to Tennessee from 1971 to 1981, then Tennessee won four in a row, followed by Alabama winning seven in a row, and that was followed by Tennessee winning seven in a row from 1995 to 2001.

Since 2001 the game has gone back and forth ending with Alabama winning the last two games in 2007 and 2008.

There were great coaches involved in this important rivalry.

Wallace Wade, General Neyland, Bear Bryant, Johnny Majors, Gene Stallings, Phillip Fulmer, and some that were not so great, but it didn't matter because it was Tennessee and Alabama, and it was the Third Saturday in October.

So here we are in 2009, and I have to ask the question: Does this game have the mystique for Alabama and Tennessee fans that it used to have?

In the past 20 years other rivalries such as Florida, LSU, Auburn, and Georgia seem to have gained more importance for both teams.

Tennessee now sees Florida, as its biggest rivalry, and Alabama fans, see the Auburn game as head and shoulders above Tennessee.

Tennessee fans see games like Georgia and South Carolina to be just as important as the Alabama game. Alabama fans now sees LSU and Florida as their real competition for the SEC title.

The younger fans of both schools probably do not even remember when this game was always played on the Third Saturday in October. That was all changed when the SEC broke the conference into two divisions back in 1992.

Since then, the date moves according to scheduling demands by the SEC.

I still see this as one of Alabama's biggest games. I still remember things like the victory cigars that were handed out to the Alabama players after a win over the Vols.

I still remember "The Deuce" taking it in for a tie back in 1993 to steal the victory from Tennessee as the clock expired. People act as though the "Wildcat Formation" was invented by the spread coaches, but Gene Stallings ran that play 15 years ago with David Palmer.

I still remember Peyton Manning leading the Tennessee band after beating Alabama four years in a row, I remember every great play, and every mistake as well.

Tennessee will play Alabama next Saturday at 2:30CST in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and even though it will not fall on the Third Saturday in October, for many fans of both schools it is still one of the most important games of the season.

I am not sure that Tennessee's new Head Coach, Lane Kiffin, really understands the significance of this game, but let him lose this game a few times, and I believe Tennessee fans will make him a believer.

This game used to be the only obstacle between either teams chance at greatness. It is now the next obstacle for Alabama and their chance this year.

Has this rivalry lost its mystique for the fans, players and coaches—maybe.

Has this game lost its importance for the fans, players, and coaches of both schools?

Let me answer that question this way: Try losing this game a few times and find out.



Editor's Note: From time-to-time we use articles from BlearcherReport.com. For more articles on Alabama at BleacherReport.com go to

http://bleacherreport.com/alabama-crimson-tide-football

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