Alabama vs. Tennessee: This Streaky Rivalry Has Lost Its Steam

Damon YoungCorrespondent IIOctober 17, 2011

24 Oct 1998: Bradley Ledbetter #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide prepares to snap the ball during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at the Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Volunteers defeated the Crimson Tide 35-18.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The leaves are turning.

The air is crisp.

Autumn has taken full grasp of its time from summer.

It must be time for "The Third Saturday in October".

That sound of leaves crinkling as they swirl in the breeze is synonymous with the cracking sound of crimson and orange clad shoulder pads.

Alabama and Tennessee are locked in one of college football's most storied rivalries.

Sadly, this once heated showdown used to be the game.

Both teams at the top of the league battling for midseason conference supremacy, but this year it's just a footnote.

The game itself isn't even on the third Saturday any longer.

It's just another pesky stop on the way to LSU for Alabama and for Tennessee, well, a game they really just hope to survive intact.

I would venture to say that most Tide fans still have a special dark corner in their heart for the Vols and likewise for UT fans. There has been plenty of vitriol between these two factions to last a lifetime, but the game itself, well whatever made it special is fading in that fall breeze.

It has always been a streaky series.

From 1971-1981 Alabama won 11 in a row over the Vols, while Tennessee capped off seven-straight wins starting in 1995 with a Peyton Manning fueled route in Birmingham.

Currently, Alabama is going for its fifth-straight win and with the exception of the 2009 12-10 heart stopper, those victories have been lopsided.

Not even the sacred victory cigar exists anymore. That time honored tradition was snuffed out in 2005.

Will Saturday produce a new classic?

Perhaps a field goal fest like the 1990 contest that was won by the foot of Alabama's Phillip Doyle, 9-6.

Maybe a frustratingly exciting five overtime game like in 2003, when Casey Clausen hit an improbable 4th-and-19 play in the second overtime with Tennessee eventually triumphing 51-43.

Realistically this game will probably be more along the lines of last season's 41-10 drubbing.

What's it going to take to bring this rivalry back to its rightful perch?

Obviously having both programs on the same level would help. Tennessee has dominated while Alabama struggled, much like Alabama is doing now.

It's not to take anything away from the winning teams, but let's be honest, the gap, while closing, is still bigger than the Tennessee River Valley.

A monumental upset would kick start it for sure, but in order to believe that will happen you would have to be smoking a special type of cigar.