Last week's Alabama/Tennessee game was the game of the year so far. The Crimson Tide and Volunteers first met in 1901 and have played 104 times. While the timing of the game moved around a bit as the SEC has expanded, the rivalry is known as the “Third Saturday in October” because that is when it is traditionally played.
Given the length of this rivalry, one’s opinion of this series' greatest games may boil down to when they were born. These are this writer’s top five, including last week's affair.
5. Tennessee 51, Alabama 43 (5OT)
Oct. 25, 2003 – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama entered its contest with No. 22 Tennessee at 3-5 record-wise, but led 20-13 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Vol quarterback Casey Clausen hit Troy Fleming with a one-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 25 seconds remaining. The two teams matched each other score-for-score through four overtimes. In the fifth, Clausen ran into the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run and then hit James Banks for the two-point conversion to take a 51-43 lead. The Vols forced a fourth down on the Tide’s ensuing possession and Jason Allen tipped away Brodie Croyle’s pass in the end zone for the win.
4. Alabama 17, Tennessee 17
Oct. 16, 1993 – Birmingham, Ala.
Running back Charlie Garner ran 73 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the Vols up 17-9 and it looked like Tennessee’s seven-game losing streak to the Tide would come to an end. Then Alabama quarterback Jay Barker led his team on an 83-yard drive that culminated with him running into the end zone on a sneak with 21 seconds left to cut the lead to 17-15. For the two-point conversion, wide receiver David Palmer lined up behind center and outran the Tennessee defense around the right to tie the game. Tennessee chose to run out the clock, giving both schools their last tie in each of their programs’ histories. However, the tie did end Alabama’s 28-game win streak.
3. Tennessee 35, Alabama 28
Oct. 16, 1982 – Knoxville, Tenn.
The second-ranked Tide had just whipped eventual national champion Penn State the week before and had an 11-game win streak on the Vols, who were 2-2-1. Tennessee trailed 21-13 at halftime, but scored 22 straight points to take a 35-21 fourth-quarter lead. Alabama cut the lead with a 14-yard touchdown run by Linnie Patrick with 5:04 left and then drove into Vol territory late in the game. Quarterback Walter Lewis took the snap from the Tennessee 17-yard line and threw a pass to Lee Jenkins in the end zone that was intercepted by Mike Terry for the win. After the game, Tennessee fans rushed onto the field to tear down the goalposts, while head coach Johnny Majors was carried to the middle of the field to shake hands with Bear Bryant in what would be his last game against the Vols.
2. Alabama 12, Tennessee 10
Oct. 24, 2009 – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The top-ranked Tide entered the game as 14-point favorites, but their only scores came on four Leigh Tiffin field goals. Leading 12-3 in the fourth quarter, Alabama running back Mark Ingram II fumbled, giving Tennessee the ball on the Tide's 43-yard line. Vol quarterback Jonathan Crompton hit Gerald Jones with an 11-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 12-10 with less than two minutes to play. Tennessee recovered the onside kick and drove down to Alabama’s 27-yard line where Daniel Lincoln attempted a 45-yard field goal. Defensive tackle Terrence Cody broke through and blocked it, preserving the win and the Tide’s path to an eventual national championship.1. Alabama 12, Tennessee 10
1. Tennessee 52, Alabama 49
Oct. 15, 2022 – Knoxville, Tenn.
After dropping 15 straight to the Crimson Tide, Tennessee led 28-10 in the second quarter. Then Alabama roared back to take a 35-34 advantage going into the fourth quarter. After the teams traded touchdowns, Tide linebacker Dallas Turner picked up a botched handoff and carried it 11 yards into the end zone to put Alabama up 49-42 with 7:49 remaining. Tennessee tied the game when Hendon Hooker hit Jalin Hyatt with a 13-yard touchdown pass, their fifth scoring combo of the game. Alabama drove into field goal range, but Will Reichard's 50-yard attempt sailed right with 15 seconds left. The Vols drove 45 yards in two plays and Chase McGrath booted a knuckleball of a field goal for Tennessee's first win in the series since 2007.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.