By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
The Alabama-Tennessee series has been one-sided since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, but don’t ask him if it’s still seen as a rivalry.
The 14 straight wins of the fourth Crimson Tide in what was traditionally a third Saturday in October didn’t change the level of passion going into Saturday night’s reunion.
It’s still a significant rivalry for Saban and for fans on both sides.
“You can say it however you want, but it’s important if you’re not having success in the game because it’s important to a lot of people,” said the Tide coach. “And everything that happened in the last few years will have no impact on this game. The only thing that matters is what happens now.
“For now, this week is a rivalry game for me and I hope it is for everyone in our organization.”
Alabama (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) are a 24.5-point favorite, but the Volunteers (4-3, 2-2) had a resurgence in coach Josh Heupel’s first season. .
Tennessee ended a two-game winning streak with a 31-26 loss to the No.12 Mississippi, which brought more attention to the behavior of unruly fans throwing objects on the field.
“He’s a huge opponent,” Heupel said of Alabama. “It’s a very good football team and it’s a rivalry game – a game that our guys and staff will be extremely excited to get ready for and go to Tuscaloosa and compete with a very good football team. “
Alabama Security Jordan Battle has been around for a long time to find out what the rival means to alumni and other fans.
“We know how rich this rivalry game is in history,” said Battle. “We just hope to give the fans what they want to see.”
Heupel described Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker as day to day after Hooker was unable to put weight on his right leg as he left the field late in the Ole Miss game. If he can’t go, then Joe Milton would be in line to start for the first time since losing to Pittsburgh when he left that game with an injury.
Hooker threw 14 touchdown passes and ran for four more and maintains a 116 straight pass without interception.
PURSUE YOUNG BRYCE
The Volunteers face another quarterback who can run even if he doesn’t do it often. Matt Corral burned them for 195 rushing yards last weekend. Now comes Bryce Young from Alabama, who is less of a runner but still mobile.
“Bryce Young is a little different,” said Tennessee defensive end Byron Young. “He’s more of a pocket passer so you know we’re looking for the race, but most of the time he just stays in the pocket.”
Both defenses can play negative games.
Alabama comes off a seven-sack performance against Mississippi State, Will Anderson recording four. He also leads the SEC with 15 tackles for a loss.
Tennessee leads all Power Five teams with 62 tackles for a loss, led by linebacker Jeremy Banks, who is second in the SEC. The Vols have also forced 10 turnovers in the last five games with eight interceptions.
IN THE COURSE OF HEALING
Heupel said running back Tiyon Evans, who missed last week’s game with injury, and right tackle Cade Mays, who left last week’s game injured, are also up to date. day.
Saban said Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders was “doubtful” after missing the last two games with a hand injury. Tide’s coach is hopeful defensive lineman Byron Young (shoulder) can play.
CROSSING THE BORDER Alabama linebacker Henry To’oTo’o is a Tennessee alumnus. Flights defensive back Brandon Turnage played for Tide for two seasons before being transferred in July.
Turnage remains close to the Battle of Alabama.
“Me and BT talk every day, he’s one of my best friends,” Battle said. “We have a long lasting relationship. I am very happy for him. I’m proud of him. “