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Column: Alabama has Turned a Rivalry into a Farce

Photo by Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee and Alabama faced off for the 100th time on Saturday. And that historic match-up in a storied rivalry will go down as one of the most lopsided and embarrassing losses on Tennessee’s side in the entire series.

Saturday’s 45-7 loss to the Tide marked the 11th straight time the Vols have lost to Alabama. But unlike Tennessee’s 11-game losing streak to Florida from 2005-15, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for this one.

When Tennessee finally broke their losing streak to Florida in a 38-28 victory in Neyland Stadium last year, it felt like a long time coming. The Vols had played Florida down to the wire in 2014 and 2015 and had managed to keep it close in a few other contests during that drought. But Saturday’s contest against Alabama magnified a growing concern for Vol fans everywhere: When will Tennessee ever be good enough to defeat Alabama again?

The Crimson Tide haven’t just beaten Tennessee over the last few years; Alabama has absolutely dominated the Vols over the last decade-plus.

Only three of Alabama’s victories over Tennessee in the last 11 years have been by less than 20 points, and only two of those have been by single digits. The Vols’ had their hopes of victory literally blocked away in a 12-10 loss to Alabama in 2009, lost 34-20 at home in 2014 in a game that wasn’t quite as close as the final score suggested, and took the Tide to the ropes in 2015 when they lost 19-14.

Other than those three games, Alabama has won every contest in their current 11-game winning streak over Tennessee by at least 20 points.

Saturday’s contest was one of the most lopsided in the entire series. Their 38-point margin of victory was the second-most in their current winning streak, matched only by last year’s 49-10 victory in Neyland Stadium. It also marked the third-largest defeat the Vols had been handed by the Tide in the entire series. Only the 2016 loss and a 51-0 win in 1906 were worse.

Not only that, but Tennessee’s offense was abysmal in this game.

Alabama held Tennessee’s offense to a paltry 108 yards on 46 plays. The Vols averaged 2.3 yards per play, and they managed just 44 passing yards in the contest. The Vols had more punts (9) than first downs (7) in the game.

Meanwhile, Alabama amassed 604 yards of offense and piled on 45 points compared to the Vols’ zero points on offense. If not for a Daniel Bituli pick-six in the third quarter, the Vols would’ve been shut out for the second time this season.

Alabama has outscored the Vols 396 to 119 over the last 11 years. Nick Saban is undefeated against the Vols while at Alabama. And he’s turned a once historic and cherished rivalry into a laughingstock and embarrassment for Vol fans with no end in sight.

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