Can Tennessee Carry Neyland Success To Tuscaloosa?
By Dan Harralson
Tennessee nearly clipped No. 6 Georgia, then upset No. 11 South Carolina in its last two outings, both at home.
Are the Vols ready to put their road struggles behind them and play well away from Neyland Stadium?
The Volunteers hit the road Saturday for the third time this season. The worst Tennessee loss in 108 years took place at Oregon the third game of the season, followed by a disappointing loss in The Swamp. Butch Jones' team was not ready to make that next step in competing.
Now they are. It has been a work in progress, but Butch Jones has Team 117 believing after an overtime heartbreaker to Georgia and an upset win over the Ol' Ball Coach. How will Tennessee respond to back-to-back road trips to Alabama and Missouri? Will this two-game road swing be different?
It may be unfair to judge Tennessee's road performance against the top-rated team in the country in Alabama, but the game is a measuring stick to find out how far Jones' team is from championship-level football like the Crimson Tide. This is an important game to instill road confidence.
Alabama coach Nick Saban knows this game will be tough if his team does not execute. Tennessee does have something going in its favor. Saban has not lost many games at Alabama, but six of his 13 losses have occurred inside Bryant-Denny Stadium (Georgia, LSU twice, Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn and Texas A&M).
New, More Competitive Chapter Coming?
Will the real Alabama and Tennessee please stand up? At the same time.
The talk this offseason centered around the nine-game conference schedule. Some directed displeasure toward the annual game between the Vols and Tide. Steve Spurrier suggested the two schools play as a non-conference game. This rivalry known as the Third Saturday In October has not been the best of late due to being lopsided throughout its history. But it's about class and respect for two of the most storied football programs in the SEC.
One team in the rivalry has been up while the other has been down. The reason: coaches. When Nick Saban was coaching Alabama, Derek Dooley was at the helm on Rocky Top. When Mike Shula, Dennis Franchione, and Mike DuBose were trying to be the head men after Gene Stallings' departure, Hall-of-Famer Phillip Fulmer was in the midst of his run at Tennessee.
Johnny Majors had success against Ray Perkins and not so much against Bill Curry in the 1980s. The '60s and '70s were all Bear Bryant. General Neyland had his time before that.
It seems that both of these two schools finally will be competing at a national championship level for the coming years. Saban is under contract until around 2022 and Butch It's early, but Jones seems to be getting the Tennessee program back on the national scene.
Jones' program against Saban's program will make The Third Saturday In October a must-watch game every year. The annual game should not only be great to watch, but there may be the realistic chances of these two squaring off in Atlanta, playing twice in one year. It's an awesome time for this rivalry and it's only going to get better with Jones and Saban leading the programs.
Longest Series Streaks
11 — Alabama (1971-1981)
9 — Alabama (1986-1994)
7 — Tennessee (1995-2001)
7 — Alabama (1905-1913)
6 — Alabama (2007-Present)
6 — Tennessee (1955-1960)
6 — Tennessee (1948-1953)