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Jumbo Package: Is Nick Saban set to finally lose to Tenneessee?

The Tide gets no respect as Tennessee is the overwhelming media favorite to pull off the win

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NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Wednesday, and pretty much everyone in the country has buried Alabama 6 feet under with a loss to the red-hot Tennessee Volunteers. They have an amazing offense and even beat Florida. You know, that powerhouse Gators program that’s 3rd from last in the SEC East. They’ve also taken down Ball State, Akron, and Pittsburgh. And LSU. For whatever that’s worth.

In any case, Josh Heupel is now the top dog in the SEC, move over, Nick Saban:

Seriously, LOL at Fisher and Harsin being below Drinkwitz.

I mean, seriously, Heupel really is just straight up a better coach than Saban:

But No. 1 Alabama doesn’t look like a well-coached team.

In fact, Tennessee looks like a better-coached team prior to Saturday’s matchup of unbeaten teams at Neyland Stadium.

That’s based on a small sample size and doesn’t mean UT’s Josh Heupel eventually will surpass Saban as the coach of the century. It’s just a reminder of how different this coaching matchup is from all the others during Alabama’s 15-game winning streak in the series.

And on top of having the better coach, Hendon Hooker just might be the next Heisman QB and #1 overall draft pick. He has 0 interceptions, after all.


If you saw Tennessee’s blowout win at LSU, you noticed Hooker throw one of the most spectacular touchdown passes of the season to open the second quarter, a 45-yard strike to Jalin Hyatt down the sideline. That was a dagger for the Volunteers, who ran away from the Tigers in prep for Saturday’s mammoth matchup with third-ranked Alabama. Tennessee hasn’t beaten the Crimson Tide since Nick Saban was hired and Hooker’s Heisman candidacy will hit supernova status if he’s able to register multiple scores during a big-time win.

As of today, The Dash ballot would be filled out thusly:

1. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

2. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

3. Max Duggan, TCU

(With an admitted soft spot for Grayson McCall, who remains an underappreciated college star at Coastal Carolina.)

But we have two months to let this sort itself out. We’ll see whether the formula of the last two decades holds firm or whether the voters shake things up in 2022.

Hendon Hooker vs Bryce Young:

Spencer: Hendon Hooker

Richard: Bryce Young

“That’s an absolute value pick,” Hall said after Johnson picked Young. “Nine out of ten times you would take Bryce Young. However, in context, in 2022, I am taking Hendon Hooker because Bryce Young, still perhaps a bit banged up after that injury. Additionally, I feel like in this system, to me this year, I feel like if I said which quarterback has been more comfortable in the pocket and operating this offense, shockingly, it’s Hendon Hooker.”

At least their Heisman QB has made it past the preseason, this time.

But their skill positions and defensive line are all better than the Tide’s too, so I’m not sure if Alabama really even has a chance here.

Tennessee D-Line vs Alabama O-Line:

Spencer: Tennessee’s Defensive Line

Richard: Tennessee’s Defensive Line

It’s easy to see why the hosts were in unison on this one. Tennessee’s defensive line has been a disruptive force this season. The Vols have found more and more success rushing the passer as the season has gone on with freshman players such as Joshua Josephs stepping up in critical spots. The line has also been impressive at stopping the run as well, limiting LSU’s running back room to just 17 total yards this past Saturday.

And, shocker, Barrett Sallee still really wants the Tide to lose. One of these days, he’s going to get it right. He swears.

CBS Sports college football analyst Barrett Sallee didn’t make any friends with the fanatics in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday.

Sallee joined “The Matt McClearin Show” on WJOX to talk about Saturday afternoon’s battle of unbeatens between No. 3 Alabama and No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville. The Crimson Tide have won 15 in a row in the rivalry, but Sallee sees the streak finally ending at Neyland Stadium.

He sees a Tennessee victory that would hand Nick Saban his first loss to the Vols since he arrived in Tuscaloosa.

Finally, in case you weren’t paying attention to Alabama football pre-Nick Saban, here’s a phenomenal rundown of some of the key bits of history to this series from Sports Illustrated:

So yes, Alabama and Tennessee are rivals, and will probably always be. Crimson Tide fans still take exception to Peyton Manning leading the Pride of the Southland Band to celebrate a win 25 years ago, but do feel like karma caught up to the Volunteers.

As such, the slow burn of a cigar is appropriate symbolism.

However, there’s only one thing that can fully reignite this rivalry, and heading into this weekend’s top-10 matchup of No. 3 Alabama at No. 6 Tennessee it’s something the Crimson Tide aims to hold it off for as long possible.