This week is easily my favorite week of the college football season. It’s late October, which means the air begins to cool, foliage begins to turn, and football season is in full swing. But most importantly, it’s the rivalry in southern football which takes place each year on the third Saturday in October: The Alabama-Tennessee game.
As most of you know, the game isn’t necessarily played on the actual third Saturday anymore due to scheduling issues. Beginning in 1995, the game has only actually been held on the third Saturday six times; after this weekend, it’ll be seven.
And I will be in Knoxville this weekend to bear witness. I plan to soak in the atmosphere of a college football Saturday in the South, enjoy a few adult beverages, and watch the Alabama Crimson Tide square off against the Tennessee Volunteers. I may die from joy.
Since this is by far my favorite rivalry, I thought it would be appropriate to count down the top 5 Alabama/Tennessee games of the new millennium during the course of the week. Fair warning: They will be the best games, not necessarily limited to Alabama victories. The good news is we have plenty of beatdowns to choose from. Any feedback on where I have ranked a particular game is more than welcome — actually encouraged.
#5 October 22, 2011: No. 2 Alabama 37 – Tennessee 6
I put the game from last year in my ranking for several reasons. One, it was a victory over Tennessee in a national championship season. Two, we beat the pants off the Vols that night. And, three, I got to share the experience with my parents, who came in town to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday, and they were nice enough to buy me a ticket to the game. One of the best Alabama memories I have.
(Note: We sat pretty close to the field on the Tennessee sideline. Right in front of their cheerleaders. And we had to stare at those uniforms all night. Barf.)
If you recall, it was tough sledding in the first half. Tennessee came out ready to play, and actually took an early lead in the first quarter. The Vols were more physical than we were up front on both sides of the ball. We traded field goals and went into the locker room tied 6-6.
In the second half, Alabama awoke, took advantage of two Volunteer turnovers, and scored 31 unanswered points. AJ McCarron threw for 284 yards and had a 39 yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell midway through the third quarter to break the game open. McCarron also had a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Trent Richardson rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns, and Eddie Lacy tacked on 46 yards rushing. Alabama totaled 437 yards in all, while only allowing Tennessee 155.
The Tide showed why they were the best team in the country in that game last year by overcoming their slow start and handling adversity the way a championship team does. The 2011 Crimson Tide would later go on to win the BCS National Championship.
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