Alabama has dominated the series in recent years, winning six straight, most in lopsided fashion
By MARQ BURNETT
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Like a lot of players on Alabama's roster, quarterback AJ McCarron didn't grow up following Alabama football.
Following the "faceless" opponent narrative, for McCarron, when Tennessee travels to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. showdown on CBS, it will be "another game" on the Crimson Tide's schedule and he sees the Volunteers as "just another school" in "just another week."
So the does rivalry aspect play into it at all?
"Not for me," McCarron said. "I play on this team, so every week is a rivalry week to me because it's the next opponent on the list and they're trying to keep us from our goal, so it really doesn't matter to me."
One can't blame McCarron for down playing the rivalry side of things between the Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC) and Volunteers (4-3, 1-2). After all, The Third Saturday in October hasn't been very competitive during McCarron's time at Alabama.
Since Nick Saban's arrival in 2007, it has been filled with lopsided victories for Alabama, except for the 12-10 game in 2009, McCarron's redshirt year. The smallest margin of victory was 20 points in 2008. Alabama officially leads the all-time series 49-38-7 (forfeit, vacated win accounted for), but recent history heavily favors the Tide.
Which begs the question, is a rivalry still a rivalry when one team is dominating?
"This game with Tennessee is a very special rivalry for a lot of people, a lot of our folks at Alabama, especially for our team," Saban said. "It's been one of the best rivalries in college football for a long, long time."
Nationally, the rivalry doesn't generate the same buzz as it once did, particularly because Tennessee's program has been in flux for years.
All of the current players on both sides were in high school with some of the freshmen and sophomores being in middle school since the last time the Vols got a win.
"We are letting the younger guys know what type of team this is going to be," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "It's very exciting for the older people. For the young guys, it's just a big game. We have to make sure we have our heads on, have our minds set right for this game. Not to make it bigger than what it really is."
Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio recalled having to be schooled about the rivalry when he first arrived at Alabama.
"It was the older guys, the mature guys that have been around Alabama for a long time, they're the ones that are really into this game because of the history between Alabama and Tennessee," Kouandjio said. "A lot of people even on campus, they take this game pretty seriously. It's a really serious game."
Still, the players know what to expect and are prepared for the unpredictability this game can bring.
"I expect Tennessee to be a great team with great coaching, and they do a great job with what they do," Mosley said. "They deserve our respect they are getting. Outside of that it's going to be us against them. We are ready for it."