For a 10th consecutive football season, Alabama is entering its game against Tennessee ranked in the top 10 and with either one loss or none at all.
For a ninth time in 10 seasons, the Volunteers will face the Crimson Tide as an unranked team and with at least three losses.
This "Groundhog Day" scenario has involved four Tennessee coaches, with Butch Jones being the latest, and with Nick Saban firmly in control in Tuscaloosa. The longtime rival programs will vie Saturday afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Saban is not putting any stock into past numbers.
"In rivalry games, you can pretty much throw out the record book, throw out the records of the teams, and throw out what happened last year and what's happened so far this year," Saban said Monday afternoon in his weekly news conference. "Obviously this is a rivalry game that means a lot to a lot of people, including the people in this organization and the people who play in this game. We've had some real struggles at times with this team, and this is a team we have a lot of respect for.
"Butch Jones has done a nice job there, and his team could easily be 5-1. They've lost two games on the last play."facebook
Alabama is favored by 34 points to win for an 11th consecutive time over Tennessee, which would tie the Crimson Tide's most successful streak in this series from 1971 to 1981 under the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant.
The Tide's 10th victory in a row in the series was 49-10 last season in Neyland Stadium, and that was over a Tennessee team that entered 5-1 and No. 9 in the country. Alabama's 10 consecutive wins have been by the average final of 35-12.
While Alabama looks as imposing as ever, having scored in all 28 quarters this season, Tennessee has gone 10 quarters without scoring a touchdown. That lack of offensive punch coupled with the inability of the Vols to end a decade-long drought of winning the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division has Jones owning less job security than at any other time in his five seasons in Knoxville.
Saban was asked Monday about the criticism Jones has received.
"That's not for me to say," he replied. "I've watched their team play, and they compete hard and play hard in games. They've put themselves in position to win every game this year but one (the 41-0 loss to Georgia on Sept. 30). We have a tremendous amount of respect for the games we've had with them in the past.
"Because they're in the situation they're in, you can make the case they'll come in here and play great to try and prove something."
Tennessee has lost every game to Alabama in the last decade by at least two touchdowns, with the exception of the 12-10 defeat in 2009 and the 19-14 decision two years ago. Each of those contests took place in Bryant-Denny, but the Vols also had an open date before those games, while the Crimson Tide did not.
Alabama was playing its eighth game in eight weeks in each of those instances, which also will be the case Saturday, but Tennessee did not have an open date to prepare this time around. The Vols fell to 3-3 last Saturday with a 15-9 home loss to South Carolina.
"We know that every team is going to give us their best effort, whether we consider them a rivalry game or not," junior running back Damien Harris said Monday. "We consider this a rivalry game."
Alabama is seeking its 20th consecutive win over an SEC East team. ... Harris practiced Monday with his left leg wrapped. ... Senior defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand (MCL) was not spotted during Monday's portion of practice that was open to the media. ... Sophomore linebacker Mack Wilson's fourth-quarter interception against Arkansas this past Saturday extended Alabama's streak of games forcing at least one turnover to 34.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.