Tennessee and Auburn Scared to Play Alabama Every Year?
By: Larry Burton
It all started when Pat Dye, former Auburn coach, started saying that Auburn should really be in the East. Then other Auburn voices joined in. A few weeks later, Tennessee mouthpieces started openly questioning the wisdom of having Alabama as a permanent opponent.
While Auburn moving to the East would certainly be easier for the next few years for them, being that the East is at least for now, the easier division, they should remember that there was a day that the East was the beast and the West was not best. What may be good now may not be that way in the future.
Is the real talk about just wanting to get out of Alabama’s shadow? Shed the “Little Brother” mantle? Or maybe it’s just about getting drilled most years while most of their recent wins have had to resort to “miracle finishes”. Tubberville’s short streak over Alabama seems like eons ago.
As long as it was just an old coach muttering such things, no one took notice. But when Auburn’s present AD, Jay Jacobs chimes in, now it goes to a more serious tone.
Meanwhile in Tennessee, the Vol AD, John Currie at least knows to keep his mouth shut on this subject and let others promote this idea. Unlike Auburn’s Jacobs, Currie knows it’s better to take your lumps than be branded a chicken and give up on a longstanding rivalry that predates his own birth.
Yes Tennessee has been on the losing side for the last 10 years and yes, some have been real butt whippings, but on the other side of the coin, no team has ever had a longer winning streak against Alabama than the Vols, so they have seen it to their way too and no one with any authority in a decision is publicly coming forward. So far it’s just been some Tennessee leaning writers like John Adams and others that are trying to get some traction in this area.
But Vol fans, it’s not just Alabama, for the last ten years, since 2007 it’s not just those folks South of the border you love to hate, it’s the whole SEC West. Look at the record of Vols vs the West:
Miss State 2-1
Ole Miss 1-2
Texas A&M 0-1
Tennessee 4 SEC West 22
Fulmer was 11-5 against Alabama and they fired him, since that firing, they’ve never beaten Alabama. Maybe that’s why the big suits are not being vocal in opposition to playing Alabama. Maybe they know they created their own problem.
And it won’t get easier this season, not only is Saban at the top of his game, but the other team they’re playing from the West this year is LSU. They could very easily beat the team that ends up winning the East and not go to the championship themselves because in large part, to two losses to SEC West teams that this winner didn’t have to play.
And while Tennessee fans and writers will scream about such a scenario, hats off to Tennessee for not having a top official whining about it, at least not yet.
As for Nick Saban vs the SEC East, only South Carolina, Georgia and Florida have beaten Alabama and they’ve only done it once each. Saban vs the SEC East is 28-3. Therefore nobody in the SEC East looks forward to playing Alabama, but then no one in the SEC East has to play them every year like the Vols.
In the end, no one is thrilled about playing Alabama, well except for maybe Mercer, who will get the biggest payday of their season and have players who are thrilled to be able to tell their grandchildren one day that they “mixed it up” with the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Everyone else is dreading it, but they’re not whining about it and they don’t look scared to do so.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter