TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The fan’s question wasn’t a question at all.
“Roger from Athens, Alabama” called in to Nick Saban’s radio show on Thursday to talk about the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry. Before Roger could get to his question, he was cut off for rambling. But he still got an interesting response from Saban.
“You get a feel very quickly for what your own players — even the ones that were here before you came — you get a feel for what’s important to them,” Saban said. “It was very obvious to me that the Tennessee game was always the biggest game. It was always the biggest game for us.
“That’s no disrespect to Auburn or the great Iron Bowl rivalry. But to our players and a lot of our fans, the Tennessee game (is always bigger) because of the tradition of the game. It didn’t take long to figure that out.”
Alabama’s matchups with Tennessee have mostly been lopsided during Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has defeated Tennessee every year under Saban. Alabama has won all but two of those games (2009, 2015) by at least 14 points.
If both teams win their next two games, the Alabama-Tennessee clash on Oct. 15 will be the biggest of the Saban era. Tennessee gets to host Alabama inside Neyland Stadium this year.
Alabama is the favorite to win the SEC West and one of the top contenders for the national championship. After pounding Florida, Tennessee has emerged as the favorite to win the SEC East.
Saban wouldn’t comment on the game this year because he wanted to focus on Kentucky.