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Bama-Tennessee game shaping up like '09

This Alabama-Tennessee matchup feels much like last season's, which turned from an apparent mismatch into a memorable entry in a storied rivalry.

The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide is trying to remain in the national championship hunt going into Saturday's game in Knoxville and the Volunteers hope for a big pick-me-up for their season.

Last season, noseguard Terrence Cody lumbered into Alabama lore by the width of an armpit.

The Tide remained perfect only after a low kick by Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln hit Cody in the armpit on the final play. It was Cody's second blocked field goal of the fourth quarter in that 12-10 win.

It was also the biggest example of right-place, right-time good fortune of the Tide's championship run.

"It's funny because you wonder how the season would have been affected if that one armpit wouldn't have blocked that kick," Alabama guard Barrett Jones said. "You never know. It's hard to stipulate what would have happened after that, but we're glad he blocked it."

The two teams meet again in the traditional Third Saturday in October rivalry in similar situations. The Volunteers once again are unranked and heavy underdogs facing a Tide team harboring national title hopes, if the chances appear considerably slimmer this time around with a loss already on the resume.

It turned into a pivotal game for Alabama last season and a hugely disappointing one for Tennessee. Now, the Vols (2-4, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) are seeking their first league win while Alabama (6-1, 3-1) has little margin for error in the SEC West race — and probably none if the Tide is to get back in the national picture.

Few are expecting this one to be close, but last year's game seemed mismatched, too.

The Tide only faced one more down-to-the-wire game during its 14-0 season, scoring a late touchdown to beat Auburn.

The Vols just missed an opportunity to create the biggest highlight of coach Lane Kiffin's first — and only — season in Knoxville.

For Tennessee, the ending might not seem quite so bad since this year's LSU loss when a penalty gave the Tigers a mulligan that resulted in the winning touchdown

"It stuck with me all the way until I played LSU," receiver Gerald Jones said of last year's Bama game. "By far one of the worst losses that I've had in my football career. And then when that happened at LSU, I don't think it gets any worse than that.

"It was tough, especially watching them win the national championship, but they deserved it."

The ending of the Alabama game still haunts Tennessee guard Jarrod Shaw, who barely got his right arm on the charging Cody on the final block.

"I felt like I let my team down, so you know it definitely, definitely hit home with me. Obviously the coaches brought it up again. I just try to use it as motivation rather than get down on myself.

"All I think about is if I just did something a little bit different, just did what the coaches told me to we would have won the game. I take that loss and I tell the guys every day that it's my fault that we lost."

The fireworks didn't stop after the block. Kiffin was reprimanded by the SEC for comments that Cody should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after removing and throwing his helmet afterward, and claiming that he didn't try to run another play because he "wasn't going to let the refs lose the game for us there and some magical flag appear."

Neither Kiffin nor Cody are still around to relive the game, or stir anything up.

It was another memorable chapter in a rivalry that dates back to 1901. Alabama had won the previous two games easily, 41-17 and 29-9.

The Tide hasn't won four meetings in a row since taking seven straight from 1986-92. The Vols then matched that from 1995-2001 that is still the longest winning streak of any team against Alabama.

Last year's game might have become an interesting anecdote for this year's Tide players from their road to the title.

For the Vols, it's a harsh memory. Now comes a chance to redemption.

"It's always in the back of your head," linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said. "You always want to put it out, but it's always lingering somewhere back there. It's just one of those things where you've got to try and go get them it next year."

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AP Sports Writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.