Alabama Football News

Alabama vs Tennessee is still a rivalry game to Nick Saban and Josh Heupel

Nick Saban leads Alabama out of the tunnel against Ole Miss
Photo by Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Since 1928, the Third Saturday in October has been circled on the calendar of all supporters of Alabama and Tennesse.

But in 2021, there are questions surfacing as to whether the term “rivalry” is appropriate.

The reason why is the Crimson Tide’s dominance in the yearly meeting. Alabama has won 14 straight games over Tennessee with the last Volunteers win coming in 2006. It is the second longest winning streak next to the Crimson Tide’s 11 game winning streak from 1971-81. The Volunteers enjoyed a streak of its own from 1995-2001, where it defeated Alabama on nine straight occasions.

For first year Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel, the game still has significance because of the storied history between both programs.

“For sure you talk about the historic nature of the football game,” Heupel said on the SEC Coaches Teleconference. “Players that have been here understand the expectation and what this game means to people, so absolutely they have an understanding of it (the rivalry), but you talk about it and show some of those things too.

“For us it’s really important that we continue to build the culture and build our program. Absolutely, it’s important to get a win in this football game and in this rivalry between the two schools. But for us it’s about controlling the controllables, continuing to grow, continue to prepare the right way.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked the same question during his call period on the conference and like Heupel, believes the rivalry still means a tremendous amount and the Crimson Tide still treat it as such.

Well, you can say it however you wanna say it,” Saban said, “but it’s significant if you don’t have success in the game because it’s significant to a lot of people and what happened the last however many years you talked about will have no impact on this game at all and the only thing that matters is what happens now.

“So for now, this week, it’s a rivalry game to me, and I hope it is to everybody in our organization.”

Alabama and Tennessee are set to kickoff this Saturday, Oct. 23 at 6:00 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN.

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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77

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