Best Moments in Alabama vs. Tennessee College Football Rivalry
John David Yonke
Every third Saturday in October, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers square off for battle.
The rivalry certainly got off to a heated start. The teams first met in 1901 (a 6-6 tie) and played ten more times through 1914. The series was then halted from 1915 to 1928 after bitter sentiment arose following the 1913 game in which Alabama’s Bully Van de Graaff had his ear torn off (bitten off? The facts are iffy) by a Tennessee player. Van de Graaff would stay in to finish the game, which the Tide won 6-0.
The ominous start set the tone for a fun and crazy matchup over the years. Traditions like the “victory cigars” make this a unique and special rivalry.
Alabama has won 15 straight meetings heading into 2022, a series high. In this year’s college football odds, the Tide are +190 to win the National Championship and -140 to win the SEC, while Tennessee’s conference odds are +5000.
Here’s a look at the third Saturday in October:
All-time record: Alabama leads 58-38-7
Record in the last ten meetings: Alabama leads 10-0
Longest Win Streak: Alabama 15 straight
Current Streak: Alabama has 15 straight
Best game: Tennessee 51, Alabama 43 (2003)
This game one takes the cake as the best in the series history as the contest featured an astounding five overtimes.
It wasn’t the most remarkable season for Alabama, who finished 4-9 in the first year under Mike Shula. Tennessee had a great season under Phillip Fulmer, going 10-3 overall and making a Peach Bowl appearance.
Even though this matchup appeared lopsided on paper, the play on the field was as close as possible. Volunteers quarterback Casey Clausen connected on a touchdown pass to Troy Fleming with just 25 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 20-20 and send things to overtime. These teams traded blows until Clausen broke the stalemate with a one-yard run in the fifth overtime to give his team a 51-43 victory.
Biggest upset: Tennessee 35, Alabama 28 (1982)
The all-time greatest moments in this rivalry cannot be discussed without mentioning the thriller in 1982.
Alabama entered the contest having won 11 straight meetings against Tennessee. Bear Bryant’s squad was ranked No. 2 in the country and held an undefeated record, so it’s safe to say they were considerable favorites to make it 12 straight against their rivals. The Volunteers had other plans. Over 95,000 fans at Neyland Stadium witnessed a 35-28 upset win for the home team, notching their first win in the series since 1970.
Johnny Majors’s team finished just 6-5-1 on the season, but they’ll always be remembered for this upset win.
Top performer: QB A. J. McCarron, Alabama
The Crimson Tide quarterback was perfect against Tennessee in his career, going 4-0. He appeared in garbage time (completing all three pass attempts, one for a touchdown) in 2010 before starting the next three years.
He put up some big-time stats in this rivalry, completing 71.8% of his passes for 927 yards, eight touchdowns, and just one interception. The signal caller’s best performance came in Alabama’s 44-13 rout in 2012 when he completed 17 of 22 attempts for 306 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions.
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