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Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama Attendance: 101,821
No. 1 Alabama looks for annual win over Vols
Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide
- The Crimson Tide have won the last 10 games in this series, with Tennessee's last victory over Alabama coming on October 21, 2006. The Volunteers are 2-10 all-time vs AP No. 1 teams, with their last such win coming versus No. 1 Auburn on September 28, 1985. They lost 49-10 to the top-ranked Crimson Tide last season.
- Tennessee has been outscored 36-3 after halftime in its last three games, including 12-0 in last week's loss to South Carolina. Those three second-half points are the fewest scored by any FBS team since September 23 (includes OTs).
- John Kelly has accounted for 41.8 percent of Tennessee's total scrimmage yards in 2017. That percentage is third highest in the FBS. Kelly had just 11 yards from scrimmage in last season's loss to the Crimson Tide.
- Alabama has given up 31 points in SEC play this season. That is the fewest points the Crimson Tide have allowed in their first four conference games of a season since 2011 (31).
- Damien Harris has run for 100 or more yards in three of Alabama's games versus SEC opponents this season. His 467 yards and six TDs on the ground in conference play rank 10th and tied for seventh, respectively, by any FBS player.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The question was simple, but Alabama coach Nick Saban took offense.
Is a rivalry still a rivalry if only one team is winning?
Alabama has not lost to Tennessee during Saban's tenure, giving the Crimson Tide a 10-game winning streak in the series.
The top-ranked Tide (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) enters Saturday's matchup against the Volunteers as about a 35-point favorite, the largest point spread in the history of the rivalry.
While it is one of the more lopsided rivalries for Alabama, Saban maintains Tennessee (3-3, 0-3) is a tough matchup.
"It's been very competitive," Saban said. "I can remember two games we had here -- one when we won the national championship -- we had to block a field goal to win the game at the end of the game. The last time we played here, we had like a seven-point game or whatever. A very close game, right down to the end.
"So I think players get up for games because of the competition and maybe because of the games they've had with them in the past."
In 2009, Alabama needed a blocked field goal to hold off the Vols. The Crimson Tide went on to win the national title that season. That was almost a decade ago.
Tennessee's last trip to Tuscaloosa produced a close matchup. The Crimson Tide needed a late touchdown from Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, plus a strip-sack from the defense to defeat the Vols 19-14 in 2015.
Those are the only two close meetings during Saban's tenure. Alabama has outscored Tennessee 351-119 during Saban's time in Tuscaloosa.
Speaking of scoring, the Vols haven't been doing much of that lately.
Tennessee was shut out by Georgia two games ago, then lost 15-9 to South Carolina on Saturday. The Vols haven't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters, dating to the second half against Massachusetts.
Tennessee is last in the SEC when it comes to big plays. The Vols have registered just 19 plays of more than 20 yards. Alabama has 39 plays of 20 yards or more.
"We are missing plays," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Not just on offense, but on defense and in special teams. It's overall one of the missing elements is the big plays."
The same story can be told through turnover margin, where Tennessee is a minus-4 on the year. Alabama is plus-11.
"Alabama is maybe the most complete team I've seen in years," Jones said.
The Tide is rolling on offense. Alabama leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (302.57), yards per carry (6.54) and total rushing touchdowns (24). Damien Harris has been Alabama's best running back, averaging 9.2 yards per carry.
Harris leads the Tide with 625 rushing yards and nine TDs on the ground. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has 558 rushing yards and hasn't had to do much heavy lifting in the passing game, where he has thrown eight touchdown passes with just one interception.
On defense, the Crimson Tide lead the nation against the run, allowing 66.7 yards. Alabama is second in scoring defense, yielding an average of 10.1 points.
Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano made his first career start last week, throwing for 133 yards in the Vols' loss to the Gamecocks. He faces an Alabama secondary that leads the SEC with 10 interceptions.
Tennessee running back John Kelly has 552 rushing yards and six touchdowns, but the Vols often have stalled in the red zone. They have an SEC-worst 73.7 scoring percentage inside opponent's 20-yard line.
Tennessee's Evan Berry was back at practice this week. The speedy return man has been sidelined since the season opener, in which he returned a pair of kicks for 86 yards. While Jones said he was encouraged about Berry's return to practice, there was still uncertainty early in the week whether or not Berry would suit up against Alabama.
Saban said there is a case to be made for Tennessee potentially being 5-1 on the season, given close losses to Florida and South Carolina. Of course, there is also a case to be made for the Vols to be 1-5. Tennessee needed double overtime to beat Georgia Tech in the opener and narrowly downed UMass in a 17-13 home win.
Saban took reporters to task for even suggesting that the rivalry isn't competitive.
"I think you all, like always, you're always looking for all these assumptions because they have issues, they have problems some kind of way," Saban said. "Why can't that be a motivating factor for them and they play their best game of the year? Y'all ever think about that?"
Updated October 17, 2017