Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide, 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Alabama has been so much better than Tennessee over the last several years -- the Tide has won the last four games between the teams, and three of those by at least 20 points -- that it's hard to remember we aren't that far removed from the last period of Tennessee dominance in the rivalry. Before the current Alabama winning streak, the Volunteers won 10 of the last 12 games and, this being a series involving Alabama, 10 of the last 11 that are still officially part of the NCAA record book.
It's been that kind of a rivalry over the decades. The Third Saturday in October has been enormously streaky. Only once has one of these teams won just two consecutive decisions (Tennessee, 1931-32). Otherwise, it's usually long winning streaks sometimes interrupted with the "down" team sneaking in a win in the middle of a run of futility.
Which brings us to Tennessee. The Vols haven't truly had a solid season since their magical fairy-tale season of 2007. And even in that year, the Tide clubbed the Volunteers, a 41-17 beatdown in Tuscaloosa that was the second-worse loss of the season.
So there's a history lesson that we hope will make this preview entertaining. Because the only thing we can hope for in this game is that Derek Dooley and Co. finds a way to keep this one close enough to be interesting, a la the 2009 game. (Somewhere, Mt. Cody is still running with his helmet hoisted in the air.) The Vols have seen their starting quarterback and leading receiver go down, and their running game is abysmal.
Alabama, meanwhile, is your usual Nick Saban well-oiled machines. They rank in the top third in the SEC in every major statistical categories, save two -- passing efficiency (5th) and net punting, where they rank 10th, in part because the top-ranked scoring offense in the league presumably doesn't get much practice. They won't get a lot more practice this week.
Alabama 42, Tennessee 17