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If I’m honest, this week’s article is all about the tailgate for me. And seriously, I am downright giddy about sharing the pics with you.  I have been dreaming about doing a tailgate like this for almost a year now and only needed about half an excuse to get out there and get it done.  So between The Engineer’s queries of “How can you have a southern blog and not write about college football?,” this weekend’s big game, and the insight of ASD’s newest guest contributor, Sara Mitchell, former Vol reporter for VFL Films and current sports anchor for WVLT-TV, a Knoxville CBS affiliate, I really had no excuse to put it off any longer. Whatever your allegiance, it’s football time in the South! 


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This weekend Tennessee plays Alabama, which sounds silly to say because it makes it sound like the whole state of Tennessee is getting together to play with the whole state of Alabama in a friendly game of Red Rover or something. Ok.  Strike that.  It probably wouldn’t be friendly.  It would probably be cut throat and to the death.  Isn’t it strange what college football can do to people?

In the fall, Saturdays down South are packed with alma mater game day allegiances and traditions. And the traditions surrounding the game create an experience almost as important as the game itself. In the spirit of this weekend’s festivities, I’ve put together 3 must-haves for Saturday’s big game.

  1. A vintage tailgate and recipes born out of the 114 year rivalry between the Universities of Alabama and Tennessee;
  2. The story of the 1901 game that started it all;
  3. A quick chat with the incredibly gorgeous and super knowledgeable Sara Mitchell to make sure we are in the know when it’s game time.

  1. The TailgateSONY DSC

You already know that I have just been itching to do this. And here it is!  There is just something about a vintage tailgate that just feels right, especially for this game.  With a storied rivalry that has spanned over a century, this weekend’s game is perfect for a cozy throwback look that says football just as much as it says fall.  Pumpkins, apples, and peanuts, along with bales of hay and plaid blankets are all you really need to pull together this nod to golden days of yore.  An old school pennant or two, if you have them, would be great.  Or maybe you could make your own!  Not to mention any of those plaid thermoses or metal picnic baskets I have been scouring antique stores for.  I haven’t found any yet, but just give me some time!

SONY DSCMenu (click the bolded type for recipes):

Now that we have our eats in order, let’s move on to the next thing you need to know about this weekend’s game

2. The Game That Never WasSONY DSC

The arch rivalry between the University of Alabama and the University of Tennessee began November 28, 1901, the first time these two teams faced each other on a football field. SEC football looked a lot different then.  The season was only 5 games long and played between Ole Miss, Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi A&M, Tennessee, and  Alabama.  Many games were played in the Quads on the campuses.   (Can you imagine?  In. the. Quad. Think on that a minute.)

This first game between these two teams was a disaster that had neither a winner nor a loser. In the second half, the referees made a controversial off sides call, and fans rushed the field.  Unable to clear the all-out brawl that resulted, the game was called and went in the books as an unresolved and prematurely concluded 6-6 tie.

The game never really ended. And fans need resolution.

Maybe that is why thousands of fans on both sides get all het up about what is known as the “Third Saturday in October (even though the game has been played on the fourth Saturday in recent years). Of course, over the years, other ingredients have been added to this rivalry, keeping it stirred and well-seasoned.  So regardless of how the season is going, of streaks, or of favorites, the 315 miles between these schools always creates a lot of passion.

3. Sara’s Guidebook SONY DSC

So what about this year’s game? Thanks to this week’s guest contributor, we’ve got that covered too. I’ve known Sara for a long time, back when she was a student and giving my daughter swimming lessons, long before she was an Vols Network star and sports expert.  Sara knows more about football than I could ever hope to know.  And she was gracious enough to chat with me for a few minutes and fill me in on a few facts sure to come in handy while navigating Saturday’s game day conversations.

ASD: How do you feel Tennessee’s offensive line will handle Alabama’s front seven?

Sara: I think it will be a challenge, maybe even a struggle.  Tennessee’s offensive line is young with two freshmen, but we are better than we have been in many respects.  Jalen Hurd from Hendersonville, TN will be the one to watch.  At 6’4” and 242 lbs, he is big for a running back.  With his size to back him up, he is definitely not afraid not afraid to take on the line.SONY DSC

ASD: Will there be problems for TN’s quarterback against one of the best defenses in the nation?

Sara: I don’t think so.  It’s going to be tough, but Josh Dobbs, a junior from Georgia, is very intelligent.  An aerospace engineering major with 3.8 GPA while participating in internships and playing football is virtually unheard of.  He now has the experience to make those head decisions during the game which are so important.  His intelligence will make all the difference.  And if he can get outside the tackle box, he could have some big game changers like he did against Florida and Georgia.

SONY DSCASD: Do you think this is one of the biggest games on the schedule?

Sara: Yes!  For SEC conference opponents, playing Alabama is always huge.  Nick Saban always sends so many players to the NFL.

ASD: Tell me how Tennessee’s bye week will affect their game Saturday.

Sara: Alabama is coming into this game off of two great wins against Arkansas and Texas A&M.  And playing Alabama is always mentally intimidating.  However, this off week will absolutely be an advantage for Tennessee.  The Vols had a tough win over Georgia, but they’ve had a week to get healthy and rest both physically and mentally.  Physical, mental, and emotional breaks are rejuvenating.  And they can use this down time to prepare.  Alabama has had an 8 year winning streak, but this could be our year!

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    Happy Tailgating!


RT0G8B1852Sara’s broadcasting career began at VFL Films with the University of Tennessee Athletics where she was the Vol Reporter and production assistant… Read more…