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  • Kevin Scarbinsky

If not now Tennessee, when?

Football time in Tennessee. Third Saturday in October. Leaves changing. The colors red and orange blending and clashing. It's coming fast, and it can't get here soon enough. For the first time in ages, Alabama and Tennessee are going to play a game of American football that will not arrive at the opening kickoff as a foregone conclusion.


At kickoff, Tennessee's "Days Since Beating Alabama" clock will stand at 5,838, but Josh Heupel and the Vols stand more than a puncher's chance of resetting that clock to 0. They've assembled an elite offense, beaten three ranked teams in five starts and gotten one gorilla known as the Florida Gators off their backs.


A week ago, while Alabama sweated out the final snap against Texas A&M, Coach Hype and company emptied LSU's Death Valley early. They've climbed higher in the rankings than they've been since 2005, all the way to No. 6. Their quarterback, the ageless 24-year-old wonder Hendon Hooker, has played himself into Heisman favorite status. Alabama's quarterback, Heisman winner Bryce Young, has missed the last game and a half with a sprained throwing shoulder.


We won't know for sure if, how much and how well Young will be able to play till Saturday.


Imagine the scene when the Vols run through the T. All that enthusiasm, the anticipation, the daydreaming of parading an upright or two down Cumberland Avenue four hours later. Hope is a beautiful thing. No, really, it is. Be a shame if something - or someone - happened to it. ...


Read more of Kevin's contention that Nick Saban broke Tennessee once and is in perfect position to do it again. Only in The Lede.

Terrence Cody celebrates his blocked FG to preserve Alabama's 2009 win over Tennessee. (Glenn Baeske/Huntsville Times)