TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — These are the games fans on both sides of the rivalry will remember 15 to 20 years from now.
Alabama-Tennessee is back on the Third Saturday in October where it belongs.
Both teams being ranked in the top-10 makes this the biggest matchup in the series in more than a decade.
No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) travels to Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday for a date with No. 9 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1 SEC). Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 ET on CBS. Alabama is looking to win its 10th straight game in the series.
“I think in rivalry games like this, people are always going to ask ‘How did you do against Tennessee?'” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “For this team, I think that’s very, very important and hopefully we’ll be well-prepared and ready to go.”
Alabama’s players understand how big this game is as well. The added tradition of being able to smoke cigars after a victory is an added bonus for the players.
“Even as a little kid, Third Saturday in October was Tennessee weekend,” Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “That’s the game. Pretty big game. I think that rivalry is right up there with Auburn. I’m looking forward to it.”
Tennessee’s ability to score and stage comebacks means Alabama won’t be able to have any lapses in the game. Tennessee ended its losing skid to Florida with a dominant second-half performance. The Volunteers defeated Georgia on a Hail Mary play to complete the comeback.
Weapons like quarterback Joshua Dobbs, running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Josh Malone make Tennessee one of the most potent offenses in the SEC. Running back Jalen Hurd is expected to be healthy for this game. That gives the Volunteers another big-play threat.
Alabama let up against Ole Miss and Arkansas. While the Tide was able to win both games, Saban knows the team can’t do that against the Volunteers.
“We know it’s going to be a challenging conference game on the road against a big rivalry team like Tennessee,” Saban said. “I think that they’re playing extremely well and we know we’re going to have to play our best and play a full game. That’s one of the things we need to do is to keep it going for a full 60 minutes. Not play up and down, not have lapses in the game.”