In a wild back-and-forth affair that lived up to the hype, the No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers defeated the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide 52-49 in what was easily the game of the year in college football and possibly the best game of this rivalry. This was the first time since 2006 Tennessee won a “Third Saturday in October” game and it was a true battle of quarterbacks in this one.
Heisman candidates Hendon Hooker and Bryce Young answered every call throughout the day. Hooker helped Tennessee jump out to the early 28-10 lead but Young and Alabama roared back in the second half. A missed extra point by the Volunteers allowed the Crimson Tide to take a 35-34 lead, which Tennessee quickly erased when Hooker found star receiver Jalin Hyatt on a long touchdown. Tennessee made the two-point conversion to make it 42-35, only for Alabama to tie things up on fourth and goal. The Crimson Tide returned a fumble for a touchdown and thought they had iced things on an interception on fourth down but got flagged for pass interference. Hooker found Hyatt for his fifth touchdown of the day to once again tie things up. Young led Alabama on a drive to try to win the game but kicker Will Reichard missed a 50-yard field goal. Hooker and Tennessee responded, driving down the field and setting up Chase McGrath’s game-winning kick.
In terms of the SEC race, this is a massive win for the Volunteers. Everything sets up well for them in the East division, with the showdown against Georgia now looming large. The winner of that game likely goes to Atlanta and the College Football Playoff regardless of what happens in the SEC title game.
For Alabama, this eliminates all the margin for error. The Crimson Tide still have to play both Mississippi teams and Auburn in the Iron Bowl, where truly anything can happen. Young and Alabama can still march to the SEC title game by running the table but now they must do just that. A loss in the SEC title game would likely mean no CFP berth for Nick Saban.