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Stan's Forecast: Tennessee Volunteers at No. 8/8 Alabama Crimson Tide (via Crimson Magazine)

(Courtesy of Crimson Magazine)

By Stan J. Griffin: October 23, 2015

A few years back there was a bit of scuttlebutt regarding the Alabama-Tennessee game, and whether it should be played every year in the SEC rotational system, as some outsiders felt that perhaps the Crimson Tide had an advantage by getting to play a downtrodden Vols program every year instead of, say, a Georgia or Florida, or even South Carolina.

Fortunately the powers that be in the conference used good judgment and opted to continue the yearly battle between Alabama and Tennessee, realizing how big of a rivalry the game still is for many, while also realizing that it's not exactly the Crimson Tide's fault that the Tennessee program had fallen into hard times over the past few years.

Make no doubt about it, Alabama-Tennessee is one of the most fabled grudge games in the history of SEC football, and it is also a game that still stirs a myriad of emotions and memories, whether it be the famed coaching battles between Paul "Bear" Bryant and General Robert Neyland, the Terrence Cody field goal blocks in 2009, the Phillip Doyle field goal to shock the Vols in 1990 or even Peyton Manning leading the band after guiding his Vols team to a romp over the Tide in 1995 at Legion Field.

By the way, I was at that 1995 Manning game and it still gives me the shakes at times.
Many of the older generation of Crimson Tide fans still have more distaste for the Vols and their fans than they do with Auburn and LSU and they also still consider Tennessee to be Alabama's main rival.

While the rivalry has been an intense one in terms of creating rancor and pure nastiness at times in terms of the respective fan bases,while also translating into some true college football classics with the players on the field, it is hard to define the Alabama-Tennessee game as being a consistently competitive rivalry.

It has instead been a series of lengthy win streaks for both teams at times, such as the 11-game winning streak for the Crimson Tide from 1971-1981 and the seven-game streak for the Vols from 1995-2001.

That is just the way this series has gone, and now it is the Crimson Tide that finds itself with the current eight-game streak over Tennessee that begin in 2007, also Nick Saban's first year at the Capstone as head football coach.

Of course the main goal for Saban's No. 8 Crimson Tide is to keep that streak going Saturday as the teams meet at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but it is also another opportunity for the Crimson Tide to focus on improving while reducing the clutter of mistakes and glitches that continue to plague it at times.

In two of the last three weeks, Alabama has gained impressive wins against Georgia and Texas A&M, wins that suddenly have Saban's team on nearly everyone's radar now in terms of being mentioned as a possible playoff team once again.  

But even in those big victories, the Tide still managed to compromise its performances with turnovers, various mistakes on special teams and defense, negative plays on offense and mindless penalties overall.

Alabama MUST eliminate those things at some point if it wants to make another run toward possible titles down the road, or at least greatly reduce them.
This week also offers the Tide another opportunity to play well in the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium, which it has yet to do in 2015.

By far the Tide's best performances this season have occurred on the road, so maybe the rivalry aspect of Butch Jones' team coming to town will inspire a much more crisp and passionate outing by Alabama.

The Tide may need great execution and emotion Saturday as I think most people realize that the Volunteers are much better than their 3-3 record, and with just a bit more fortune might be a Top 10 team along with Alabama.

Like the Crimson Tide, the Vols have already been greatly tested as the Vols have endured intense and physical games against Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas and Georgia. Tennessee will not come to Tuscaloosa intimidated by any means going up against yet another elite team in Alabama.

I expect the Volunteers to come out Saturday very excited and very focused as they enter the game with much momentum after their recent huge comeback to beat Mark Richt's Bulldogs.

Meanwhile, if the Crimson Tide is not fully inspired and focus, this is one of those games that could be a bit precarious for it, especially with Tennessee's array of offensive weapons that includes talented quarterback Joshua Dobbs. He gave the Tide fits in Knoxville last season.

If Alabama has a big advantage, I think it's the fact that the Tide offense is setting into a pretty good rhythm with Jake Coker at quarterback and a run-heavy attack that is allowing Derrick Henry to fully showcase his punishing skills on a more consistent basis.

This is not good news for a Tennessee defense that ranks near the bottom of the SEC in scoring defense, rushing defense, passing defense and total defense.
I think the Alabama offense, like it did against Texas A&M recently, should be able to run at will, and will also have some opportunities down the field in the passing game with Calvin Ridley and company.

I also expect another good effort from the ever-improving Tide defense, although a big play or two by the Dobbs-led UT offense would not be a huge shock.
All in all, it should be a solid conference home win for Alabama, as the streak against the Volunteers continues.

Alabama 34, Tennessee 17

(Courtesy of Crimson Magazine)

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