The Tennessee Volunteers will renew “The Third Saturday in October” this weekend when they travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to play the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This will be the 92nd meeting between the two SEC schools. Alabama will enter the game as the Associated Press’s No. 1 ranked team in the country.
The Crimson Tide hold a 46-38-7 series lead over Tennessee, having won the last two meetings against the Vols. UT’s last win in Tuscaloosa was the five-overtime 51-43 victory in 2003. Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin knows the tradition of this game and believes his staff will embrace the Vols’ underdog role.
“(It’s a) big-time matchup for us this weekend,” Kiffin said at his weekly press conference. “We’re going to have to do everything right to have a chance to make this matchup competitive again. We are excited about the challenge.”
The Vols will face the SEC’s top-ranked defense with running back Montario Hardesty, who averages 112 yards on the ground per contest, and quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who is coming off a win against Georgia, in which he threw four touchdowns. Crompton benefited from the progress wide receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore made after returning from injuries, and Crompton will look to get his receivers the ball against an Alabama secondary led by All-American cornerback Javier Arenas.
Defensively, the Vols will go up against the league’s leading rusher in Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Kiffin said that Ingram does his best work after contact, so tackling will be extremely important for the Vols.
Monte Kiffin’s defensive unit is looking to build on its performance against Georgia where the Vols didn’t allow the Bulldogs inside the red zone. Linebacker Rico McCoy said the team’s game plans don’t change much from week to week, but they try to attack the offenses’ weaknesses. McCoy believes Alabama’s more-traditional offense will allow Tennessee’s front seven to be more involved in making plays.
“We’ll have a lot to do with the outcome of this ball game,” McCoy said. “I’m excited. This is more man-on-man football. It’s going to come down to who flinches first really. There’s no trickery. That’s what I like about it. … I’m up for that challenge. My team is too.”
Although Alabama refused to allow Tennessee to wear orange jerseys, the rivalry won’t lose any of its tradition and history in the eyes of the players.
“We could wear pink, and I’d still be down there ready to go,” defensive tackle Wes Brown said. “This game is special to me, regardless, but wearing that orange jersey is special. Getting to do it in a great rivalry like this, that would have been really special.”
The Crimson Tide and the Vols will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. with the game televised on CBS.