clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Highest-Ranked Tennessee-Alabama Game Ever?

If the Vols stay in the Top 10 and the Tide stay at #1, Saturday will feature the highest combined rankings in 98 years of Tennessee vs Alabama.

Tennessee v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The polls are waiting til Monday this week; Georgia leads South Carolina 14-0 as I type and the Dawgs could sneak back in the Top 25. How far Tennessee drops after a double overtime road loss to a Top 10 foe via seven turnovers will be interesting. The Vols were at #9, saw #6 Houston lose at Navy 46-40, then have this behind them:

  • #10 Miami lost to #23 Florida State 20-19
  • #11 Wisconsin was off; the Badgers have wins over LSU & Michigan State and a close loss to Michigan
  • #12 Nebraska and #13 Baylor were both off and are both undefeated with no marquee wins.
  • #14 Ole Miss was also off but has two losses
  • #15 Stanford, #16 Arkansas, and #17 North Carolina all lost. #18 Florida worked on their tan.

Pollsters might not drop Houston below Tennessee and might move Wisconsin above the Vols. But even if both of those things happen, if voters elect not to move other teams on a bye above Tennessee after Saturday’s performance, Tennessee will stay in the Top 10.

Why does all that matter? If Tennessee stays in the Top 10 and Alabama stays at #1, Saturday will be the highest-ranked Third Saturday in October ever.

Here are the current standard-bearers for this rivalry:

  • 1973 and 1993 featured #2 Alabama vs #10 Tennessee. The former featured a 21-0 run from the Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter to break open a 21-21 tie. The latter ended in a 17-17 tie after Alabama drove the length of the field in the final minutes, then sent David Palmer around the edge for a two-point conversion. This game was later forfeited to Tennessee as a result of Antonio Langham being ruled ineligible.
  • Tennessee and Alabama have met four times with a combined ranking of 13: 1939 (#5 Tennessee 21 #8 Alabama 0), 1967 (#7 Tennessee 24 #6 Alabama 13), 1972 (#3 Alabama 17 #10 Tennessee 10), and 1996 (#6 Tennessee 20 #7 Alabama 13). The ‘96 game featured the famous 79-yard Jay Graham run with less than two minutes to play to give Tennessee the win.

So the last four weeks could give us:

  • A 38-0 run on Florida after being down 21-0 at the end of an 11-year streak, the largest comeback against a ranked team in Neyland Stadium history.
  • A hail mary to beat Georgia, we think the first game-winning touchdown in school history on the final play of regulation.
  • School records for length of game time and most turnovers at Texas A&M.
  • The highest-ranked game between the two winningest programs in SEC history.

Not a bad four weeks for, “I’ve never seen that before.”

Beat Bama.