TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Ho-hum, just another Alabama win over Tennessee in the Nick Saban era.
This time it was a 45-10 win and was the seventh straight victory for Alabama against the Volunteers. But instead of treating Tennessee like another “faceless” opponent to be demolished, the Rocky Toppers’ comments in the week leading up to the game apparently made Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron angry. And Tennessee probably regretted making him angry, no matter how non-confrontational the comments were when they were made.
Earlier in the week, Tennessee players were quoted calling Alabama “the red team” and not referring to them by their actual name because opponents of “the red team” tend to mentally beat themselves before the game is even played. McCarron thought this meant that Tennessee didn’t respect Alabama, and it ended poorly for the visiting Vols.
“I never really say anything about the other team, but I took this one personal,” McCarron said. “I felt disrespected.
“For them to not call us Alabama and call us ‘red team’ and for their head coach to come out and say that they can play against anybody, I don’t think we’re just anybody. We’ve won two national championships in a row and we’re undefeated right now so we’re not just anybody.”
McCarron’s hurt feelings—manufactured or otherwise—were useful in Saturday’s drubbing. The long shot Heisman hopeful went 19-for-27 passing for 275 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. This is also the fourth straight game in which McCarron has not been sacked. He is tediously efficient and incredibly bland, while rarely forcing the action or making mistakes.
But the normally monotone McCarron was animated and clearly satisfied with the win.
“I wanted to come out and score as many points as possible and I didn’t want to come out of the game, either,” McCarron said. “I feel like we’re playing better each week and I feel like we showed that today.”
Alabama was prepared for this game and was not about to be surprised by Tennessee like Georgia and South Carolina were. This was a display by a team that wasn’t flustered by the premise of a rivalry game, probably because it isn’t much of a rivalry these days.
This game needed to be competitive for the Third Saturday in October to stay relevant, but it seems that as long as Nick Saban is yelling out commands in crimson and white, Tennessee doesn’t have much of a chance. The fans can continue hating each other’s teams, but in seven years there has only been one game in the Saban streak that was competitive.
While McCarron was ornery after the game, his head coach was uncharacteristically pleased with the effort.
“I’m really happy, our players are really happy, and I hope our fans are really happy,” Saban said. “This is a 110-year-old rivalry that means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama and I’m very proud of the job that the players and the coaches did.”