Alabama Football: In restoked rivalry will another Siran Stacy emerge?

Former Alabama running back Siran Stacy
Former Alabama running back Siran Stacy /

Years ago, on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Legion Field in Birmingham, with the entire college football world watching, a shifty, speedy Alabama football, junior college transfer with soft hands rose up and took over.

A Jahmyr Gibbs precursor.

1989 Alabama Football Season

The year was1989, and it was the Third Saturday in October, and it was on this day that first-year Alabama running back Siran Stacy torched the Tennessee defense, running for 125 yards, catching nine passes for 158 more yards and finding the end zone four times in helping then No. 10 Alabama take down No. 6 Tennessee, 47-30.

That was the last time an undefeated Alabama met an undefeated Tennessee. Until this coming Saturday, of course. Before and after that classic 1989 showdown, plenty of memorable battles have been waged by these two longtime SEC blue-bloods.

Perhaps a bit strangely, it’s been a rivalry of back-and-forth streaks. Older Alabama fans will remember the golden Bear Bryant era when Alabama beat Tennessee every year from 1971 to 1981. Tennessee then took four straight from 1982 to1985 before Bama flipped the script again, winning seven straight from 1986 to 1992, highlighted by a stunning 9-6 upset in Knoxville in 1990 when Alabama was unranked and Tennessee was No. 3.

The teams played to a tie in 1993, but that game sort of felt like an Alabama win since it was the Tide that had to rally late, behind Jay Barker and David Palmer.

Tennessee, largely due to the arrival of one Peyton Manning, owned the series from 1995-2001. Even a Shaun Alexander-led Bama team that went on to win the SEC in 1999 couldn’t snap the streak. The Tide finally ended the Vols’ run in 2002 in Knoxville but then suffered one of its more painful losses in the series the very next season, losing 51-43 in five overtimes.

Alabama earned its first-ever win over Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2005 with a momentous 6-3 victory. Tennessee won in 2006. And the Vols haven’t won since.

Alabama Football Winning Streak

That’s right. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the Crimson Tide has reeled off 15-straight victories in the series. Losing to Tennessee? Such a notion would elicit the same response from a current-day University of Alabama student if you showed him or her a Yorkshire Terrier with three eyes, a lion’s mane and talons for feet. What is that?

Tell’em Tennessee is one of Alabama’s biggest, longtime, traditional rivals, and you’re likely to evoke puzzled looks and furrowed brows. You mean the Tennessee that we beat every year? The Tennessee that every year is hard-pressed just to become bowl eligible? The Tennessee that almost always finishes in the middle of the pack in the SEC East? That Tennessee?

They’d probably never guess that after Alabama in SEC football championships, Tennessee is tied with Georgia for second all-time with 13. Other than in-state rival Auburn, if a current University of Alabama student had to pick a second rival for Alabama they’d probably say Georgia or even Texas A&M before they say Tennessee. Well, prior to this season anyway.

Now that it’s mid-October, trees, leaves and grass color aren’t the only things changing. This is Tennessee week for Alabama, and for the first time in a long time, it feels like Tennessee week — the Tennessee weeks of old. There’s a buzz in the air. There’s chatter. There’s the glare of a national spotlight. There’s College GameDay. There’s a degree of uncertainty, nervousness, apprehension – from both fan bases. Undefeated, No. 3 Alabama versus undefeated, No. 6 Tennessee this coming Saturday has without a doubt stoked the embers of one of college football’s all-time great rivalries.

For the first time in a long time, no one would be surprised at either team emerging victorious. Both teams are good, very good. Both teams have star quarterbacks. Both teams have legitimate championship aspirations. Both teams believe they can win.

This is the way the Third Saturday in October used to be. It’s always featured the perfect mix of late October colors — the clash of crimson and orange. Now the game has its old luster back again, too.

Just like 33 years ago, it’s undefeated Alabama Football versus undefeated Tennessee. The Third Saturday in October has finally rolled out its big stage again. The bright lights are back on. And again the eyes of the entire college football world will be watching, wondering if another long overdue classic in this historic rivalry is about to take place.

Tide Offense looking for rhythm against the Vols. dark. Next

For Alabama Football? Well, might be a nice time for another Siran to rise up.