It's safe to say the Alabama Crimson Tide is the most hated opponent of all of Tennessee's rich rivalries. That along with the recent trends of the programs will be enough to make Saturday's matchup one for the history books.
This heat of this rivalry can stretch back to the Tide's era of dominance, when Bear Bryant claimed six national titles and 13 SEC championships from 1961 to 1979, all while going 14-4-1 against the Vols.
However, most Tennessee fans would be quick to flush away those memories with ones of the Volunteers of the 1990s, with glimpses of Peyton Manning, Heath Shuler and Peerless Price strutting into the end zone in Tempe.
Recently, new ingredients have led many to wonder which direction this rivalry would take next.
The hiring of Nick Saban in January of 2007 was a red flag for all Tennessee fans aware of the name and what that meant. Alabama will be back.
Saban single-handedly revived LSU football between 2000-2004, capturing two SEC championships and one national title, including a Sugar Bowl victory and a 47-15 record.
Saban would leave LSU for a short, unsuccessful stint as head coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, from 2005-06. Granted, success in college does not always translate to the NFL (e.g. Steve Spurrier).
In 2007, Saban would coach the Tide to a 7-6 record, not characteristic of a team that beat ranked teams, Arkansas and Tennessee, as well as capturing a bowl victory over Colorado. The team would lose four games to ranked opponents by seven points or less.
After examining the 2008 version of Alabama, I would think Saban still has it in him. The Crimson Tide are currently 7-0, ranked number two in the nation and on track to compete for conference and national titles.
Sticking to the subject, Philip Fulmer is 11-4 all-time against the Crimson Tide since 1993, including a seven-game win streak stretching from 1995-01. That's the longest win streak against the Tide for any Volunteer coach ever.
However, since 2002 Fulmer is 3-3 against the Tide, and 1-2 against Nick Saban. Last year, Saban's squad dismantled the Vols in Tuscaloosa 41-17.
A rivalry once headlined by power surges and streaks is now any man's game.
The next century has brought change to both programs, as the Vols have gone 3-5 in bowl appearances while the Tide have gone 3-3. Neither team has made a BCS bowl appearance since 2000.
In the 1990s, both teams won one national title each while going a combined 12-6 in bowl games.
In the 2000s, Tennessee is 74-35 overall, while Alabama sits at 53-46. It's worth noting that since 2000, Alabama has named six different head coaches.
Young Vol fans have been accustomed to controlling this rivalry on the gridiron, but times may be changing.
Since the disastrous 2005 season when the Vols went 5-6, many fans have been calling for Fulmer to be fired. The coach rebounded with 9-4 and 10-3 seasons the last two years to quiet some critics, but again is on the hot seat after guiding Tennessee to a current 3-4 record.
Volunteer fans have been outspoken about avoiding another 2005 season; so needless to say, Fulmer's job could be on the line Saturday.
With Nick Saban re-emerging as a dominant coach in the SEC, Tennessee and Alabama fans are curiously watching the balance of power for the Third Saturday in October.
It's probably safe to say that Saban has only begun what will be a long tenure at Alabama, after learning his fortunes in the NFL.
There will be more than cigar-smoking and bragging rights on the line Saturday.
The Volunteers could salvage a crumbling season with an upset, and turn the year around, saving Fulmer's job as well as respectable bowl hopes.
Alabama has just as much at stake, for a loss could put the Tide a game behind in the national title race. Upcoming games against Auburn and at LSU loom, and if the winning continues, the Tide will face another SEC hurdle at the championship game in Atlanta.
The outcome of this year's game could alter the rivalry for years to come. But that's how Tennesseans and Alabamians like to settle their scores, on the gridiron.