OVERALL RECORD: Alabama, 47-38-7*
LAST 10 GAMES: Even, 5-5
STREAK: Alabama, 3
It has produced last-minute victories, even in mind-numbing games. It used to have it's own date on the calendar -- the Third Saturday in October -- and it's one of the few rivalries with a blog devoted to it. And it is almost unquestionably Tennessee's biggest football rivalry -- the Florida series being driven by the former importance of the game to the order of the SEC East and the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games being rivalries only in the sense that the Commodores and the Wildcats would like very much to win them.
But it might be the second most important rivalry for Crimson Tide fans. My experience in Alabama seems to suggest that while defeating Tennessee is huge, defeating Auburn is required. Of course, these are the impressions from an observer and not a fan, so Alabama fans should tell me I'm wrong if I am.
All of that is not to take anything away from a rivalry that will mark its 109th anniversary this year. (The teams didn't play in 1902, 1910, 1911, 1915-27 and 1943.) Alabama fans certainly enjoyed defeat Phil Fulmer whenever they could, and Tennessee fans are now eager to take a few shots at knocking off Nick Saban.
There are historical reasons to think it might take a while. This is a rivalry built on streaks. Alabama won eight of the first nine, Tennessee won five of the next six, Alabama won or tied the next five, Tennessee took three straight, Alabama went 4-1-1 over the next six, Tennessee then went 9-3-1, Alabama won or tied the next six, Tennessee reeled off four straight, the Tide won 11 in a row, followed by four from Tennessee and seven by Alabama. Then Tennessee went 11-3 (after NCAA sanctions are factored in) over the next 14 years. That brings us to the current day's three-game streak by Alabama, which would be one of the shortest in the series if it ended now.
That, and the last (and only) time Tennessee held an edge in the series was when John F. Kennedy was running for president -- which is to say, it's been pretty Alabama-friendly since the beginning.
Then again, last year showed us how close this game can be, and there will be no mountain in the middle to block a winning field goal attempt and preserve the Bama victory if it comes to that. It might not be the most divisive rivalry for Alabama, but it will not be overlooked.
*Team records differ because of NCAA sanctions
This is a rivalry of recent vintage -- the two teams have played only 38 times, and nearly half of those have come since the SEC split into divisions -- but some Georgia fans would put the game with the Vols ahead of the now-dormant series against Clemson. It's actually been a matter of debate over the last few days at Dawg Sports. It is, of course, not a huge rivalry for either team. But after Tennessee won three of the last four games -- scoring 51, 35 and 45 points in those victories while winning by at least 18 in each -- it's certainly a game that at least some Dawgs fans are circling.