Sunday, October 14, 2018

Tennessee Week: Us vs Y’all

imageHere we go again. This time, the calendar is right.

Alabama plays Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, 20 October 2018.

This is absolutely one of the most intense and storied rivalries in SEC and college football history. For many Alabama fans, Tennessee is the most despised rival, even over that thing we have on the last regular season game of every year. For many Tennessee fans, this rivalry’s intensity exceeds the one they have with Florida.

On the field, Tennessee has beaten Alabama 37 times. No other team on the planet can claim 37 victories against Alabama.

Tennessee has 13 SEC Championships. No other school in the league is as close to Alabama’s 25.

Beginning in 1995 with Peyton Manning as a sophomore leading the band in that absolutely awful Rocky Top song in Knoxville, Tennessee ran off a streak of seven straight victories in the series. No team in the SEC has ever beaten Alabama seven straight times and it may not ever happen again. Tennessee rightfully claims six National Championships. No other team in the SEC is as close as Alabama’s 16.

These are the two marquee programs of SEC Football lore. These are the two flagships. Florida may have more fans and more TV viewers. Georgia, too. But no two programs have done more on the field than Alabama and Tennessee. Nobody. No two programs can claim head coaching legends like Paul W. Bryant and General Robert Neyland.

Neyland said: “You never know what a football player is made of until he plays against Alabama.”

Bryant said: “Yeah, Auburn’s got a pretty good team but Tennessee is the one you gotta look out for.”

It’s 11 decades of college football at its finest and most intense.

Early in the series and up until the advent of televised football games, both teams wore their home colors. Tennessee in their bright Orange; Alabama in their deep Crimson. What better symbol of Autumn could there be than seeing these two line up against each other like that?

One of my earliest football memories was listening to the 1972 game on the patio with my father. Bama was down 10-3 late in the fourth quarter due to a very stout Tennessee defense. But the Tide somehow managed to score two touchdowns in under two minutes and pulled out a 17-10 victory. Bama play-by-play announcer John Forney was nearly unintelligible as the final seconds ran off the clock, but my father’s grin as he pulled out the Victory Cigar was all I needed to be told—beating Tennessee is special.

It’s the Third Saturday in October.

It’s Us vs Y’all.

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