Bama game is still big

Never mind that Tennessee has beaten Alabama seven years in a row. <p> Never mind that each team has lost two games already and neither is in the top 10 nationally.

Never mind that Alabama (5-2 overall, 2-1 SEC) is ineligible for postseason play and that Tennessee (4-2, 1-2) appears headed for a non-New Years bowl for the first time in eight years.

It's Tennessee vs. Alabama, and that's all that matters.

''It's the biggest game of the year, as far as tradition goes,'' Vol tight end Jason Witten said this week. ''Where we stand right now, this is a huge game. We're 1-2 (SEC) and just trying to stay alive. This is a big game.''

Although the Big Orange won't reach its goals of winning an SEC championship and playing for a national title, there are still some achievements to be pursued.

''A 10-win season would be pretty great for Tennessee,'' Witten said. ''With them (Tide) not being able to make a bowl game, this is going to be a huge game for them. They're going to be ready to play. We know how exciting and how crucial this ballgame is.''

Whereas most of Tennessee's players grew up in other states, Witten is an Elizabethton native who has followed the Vol-Tide series since he was a small child. Being an in-state player probably makes him a little more aware of the tradition involved in this rivalry.

''It does,'' Witten said. ''I told some of them today (Monday), 'You come to Tennessee for games like this. The tradition of this game goes way back before we were born.' There's a lot of tradition in this game. They (Vol teammats) have got to realize that they're playing for a lot more than just themselves out there. When they put that orange jersey on, there's a lot of pride in that.''

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