You know you have a special rivalry when your conference reserves the same weekend every year for you to play the other team. For the Alabama Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers, that’s the third weekend in October. In fairness, that hasn’t always been the case, although the SEC is gotten back to doing that lately. More importantly, this rivalry has been contested over 100 times, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the best games ever played between Alabama and Tennessee.
Alabama 17, Tennessee 17 (1993)
While Alabama would later forfeit this game, the 1993 version of this rivalry will always be remembered as the last Alabama-Tennessee tie. The Crimson Tide was no. 2 in the country and the defending national champs, only to find themselves trailing 17-9 with less than two minutes left. However, Jay Barker orchestrated a late touchdown drive with running back David Palmer scoring the two-point conversion with 21 seconds left to salvage a 17-17 tie.
Tennessee 20, Alabama 13 (1996)
Both were top-10 teams for this matchup and were locked in a 13-13 tie late. Despite being held in check for most of the game, Tennessee running back Jay Graham burst through the line of scrimmage for a 79-yard touchdown run. In response, the Crimson Tide began marching down the field in front of 106,000-plus fans in Knoxville. However, Leonard Little popped the ball loose from Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens. The Volunteers recovered the fumble to secure the win.
Tennessee 35, Alabama 28 (1982)
This was Bear Bryant’s final game against Tennessee, but the Vols didn’t give him a parting gift after he and Alabama defeated Tennessee in 11 straight seasons. The unranked Volunteers played an almost flawless game against the no. 2 Tide. While nursing a 35-28 lead late in the game, Mike Terry intercepted a pass in the end zone to secure the upset. The Vols then carried head coach Johnny Majors to midfield for his final postgame handshake with Bryant.
Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (2009)
This was Lane Kiffin’s only battle with Nick Saban as the Tennessee head coach and it turned out to be a memorable one. Alabama was ranked no. 1 at the time and favored by 14 points but failed to score a touchdown in the game. After a rare Mark Ingram fumble, the Volunteers scored a touchdown to cut the Alabama lead to 12-10. Somehow, the Volunteers recovered an onside kick and were a field goal away from winning. But Terrence Cody blocked Daniel Lincoln’s field goal try to preserve a 12-10 win for Saban and the Tide. It was Alabama’s closest game in a season in which they went undefeated and won the national championship.
Tennessee 51, Alabama 43 (2003)
In fairness, this was not a good Alabama team. However, this is surely one of the most memorable games between the Tide and the Vols. There are too many amazing plays to recount as both teams refused to lose until the fifth overtime when Tennessee scored a touchdown and two-point conversion before getting a stop on defense to cap off the longest and arguably most exciting game in the history of the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry.