No. 4 Alabama looks to maintain hold on Tennessee

ESPN college football analyst Tim Tebow said Texas A&M’s 41-38 upset win over Alabama on Oct. 9 effectively “woke a sleeping giant.”The Crimson Tide looked wide awake last week while routing Mississippi State 49-9 in Starkville, boosting them to the No. 4 ranking in this week’s AP Top 25.They aim for a second consecutive win Saturday night when they welcome Tennessee to Tuscaloosa.The once-great rivalry has become totally lopsided since Nick Saban took over at Alabama before the 2007 season.Saban is 14-0 against the Volunteers as the Crimson Tide’s coach, and aside from a 12-10 victory in 2009 that required Alabama to block a potential game-winning field goal, few of the games have been close. That includes last year’s 48-17 blowout in Knoxville.Josh Heupel is the sixth Tennessee coach to try his hand at beating Alabama in the Saban regime. He will have to do it with a potentially short deck as quarterback Hendon Hooker (leg) is considered day-to-day after leaving last week’s 31-26 loss to Ole Miss in the final minute.”I don’t think it’s a long-term injury,” Heupel said. “We’ll see as the week unfolds where we wind up with Hendon.”Hooker’s injury was barely a footnote in light of all the crazy things that happened over the game’s final minute. Hooker’s 23-yard pass to Jacob Warren was less than a yard shy of a first down on fourth-and-24 with 54 seconds left, enraging a sellout crowd that earlier saw a scoop-and-score touchdown by the Tennessee defense overturned.A minority of fans threw objects ranging from mustard bottles to golf balls — hitting Rebels coach Lane Kiffin with one — and forced a 20-minute delay. The Volunteers’ band, cheerleaders and dance team all left rather than face potential serious injuries from the bombardment of debris.

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