6 things to know about Tennessee vs. Alabama

Orange & White Nation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee and Alabama will renew their football rivalry for the 102nd time this Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Vols and Crimson Tide kick off at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CDT) in Tuscaloosa on ESPN.

Here are 6 things you need to know about the game:

It all began with a fight

The first game between the two schools came in 1901. The Vols and Crimson Tide played to a game-shortened 6-6 tie in Birmingham.

A controversial offside penalty sent fans on to the field. The officials could not get them to leave, so the game was called and a rivalry was born.

Rock ‘n’ Roll

If you grew up on 1990s rock ‘n’ roll and are going to the game you have an opportunity to take in a free concert. The band Weezer is performing at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Birmingham is an hour away from Tuscaloosa.

Popular songs by the band include “Buddy Holly,” “Beverly Hills,” “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and “Pork and Beans.”

The band also has a Knoxville connection. Bassist Brian Bell is from Knoxville and went to Bearden High School. His father Tom Bell is a geography professor at UT.

Going streaking

Alabama leads the all-time series against Tennessee 56-38-7 and has the longest winning streak in the series coming in at 12 games. The rivalry has been a run of streaks going back to 1905 when Alabama won seven straight games. Tennessee would win five of the next six contests.

Tennessee’s longest streak in the series was seven games from 1995, Peyton Manning’s freshman year, to 2001.

Storied programs, coaches

When comparing all-time programs, Alabama and Tennessee can be found at the top of most lists. Both programs are top 10 in NCAA Division I FBS program wins, bowl appearances, and bowl wins.

Inside the Southeastern Conference, the two teams are top 3 in all-time wins and conference titles.

They also boast five of the top 40 all-time winningest coaches in the NCAA football bowl subdivision by percentage, with a minimum of 10 seasons coached. Gen. Robert Neyland had two stints at Tennessee spanning 21 years going 173-31-12 for a .829 winning percentage (ninth best overall in D-I FBS).

Frank Thomas coached for two stints at Alabama and Chattanooga over 19 seasons. His winning percentage was .795. Bear Bryant coached 38 seasons with Maryland, Kentucky, Alabama and Texas A&M. He was 323-85-17 with a winning percentage of .780.

Coach Nick Saban is in his 12th year as coach at Alabama and has a .790 winning percentage over 24 seasons. Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer spent 17 years coaching the Vols with a 152-50-0 record, a winning percentage of .745.

Victory cigars

In 1961 Alabama athletic trainer Jim Goostree gave out cigars to the team after breaking a six-year-stretch of going 0-5-1 against Tennessee. The tradition, celebrated mostly by the Crimson Tide, has gone on since.

The smoking of cigars after the game is actually an NCAA violation. The use of tobacco products on a practice or competition field is prohibited.

Blended loyalty lines

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt came to Knoxville from Tuscaloosa two years ago after his second stretch of coaching at his alma mater. Pruitt played for Alabama for two seasons from 1995-1996.

Six current UT coaches have also coached the Crimson Tide: Pruitt, Derrick Ansley, Chris Rumph, Chris Weinke, Kevin Sherrer and Brian Niedermeyer.

Alabama linebacker coach Sal Sunseri was defensive coordinator at Tennessee during the 2012 season. Associate defensive coordinator Charles Kelly coached special teams at Tennessee in 2018.

Former Tennessee coach Bill Battle played for Alabama from 1960-62. Battle was 59–22–2 in seven seasons in Knoxville from 1970-76. He returned to Tuscaloosa to be Alabama’s athletic director from 2013 to 2017.

Butch Jones coached Tennessee from 2013 to 2017 and is currently an offensive analyst for Alabama.

Current Duke football coach and former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe played at Alabama as well. Cutcliffe coached the Vols 1998 national championship team but left before the title game to take the head coaching job at Ole Miss.

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