LSU, Alabama take last steps before mega-matchup

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The only thing standing in the way of the most anticipated SEC game of the year is a couple of huge underdogs with quarterback issues.

Before No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama square off on Nov. 5 in a game that could decide one of the BCS championship game participants, the Tigers and Crimson Tide have business to take care of Saturday.

LSU is a 22-point favorite against No. 19 Auburn at Tiger Stadium. Alabama, favored by four touchdowns, plays Tennessee at Bryant-Denny.

After that the Tide and Tigers each have a week off to prepare for that monster matchup in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

No need to worry about either team looking past Saturday, though. Not with big rivals coming to town.

The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is no longer an annual Third Saturday in October ritual. That tradition is a casualty of the Southeastern Conference’s last expansion in 1992.

The programs have been passing ships for much of the last 15 years. Usually when one has been up, the other has been down.

This will be the fourth year in a row that Alabama has been ranked coming into the game and Tennessee has not. The two previous years, the Volunteers were ranked and the Tide wasn’t.

Three times since 1997 (99, 2002 and ‘05) both have been ranked for the game.

The two storied programs have also never met in the SEC title game.

The rivalry does have a history of one side dominating the other. The Tide won 11 straight from 1971-81 and went nine games without losing from 1986-94.

The Vols snapped that streak in 1995 and went on to win seven in a row.

Alabama comes in having won four straight, outscoring the Vols 123-46.

Another blowout will be hard for the Volunteers to avoid, especially with quarterback Tyler Bray on the shelf with a broken thumb.

Last week against LSU, new starter Matt Simms was 6 of 20 for 128 yards and two interceptions _ and that was at home.

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