Tennessee Needs A Landmark Win. And They’re Inching Closer To Giving It A Big Ole Uncle Joe Whiff
The Tennessee Volunteers time is almost here. It won’t come Saturday, though, and that’s okay.
For once, finally, Tennessee is good. They’re not back, per se, but they’re there. They exist on a “plays good football” plane and that’s a meaningful mark for a program which usually occupies a flooded crawlspace. Hendon Hooker is a legitimate Heisman contender; Josh Heupel has brought pride back to a storied program. There’s a foundation.
They have wins against a so-so Florida team — Gator fans are already looking at Billy Napier, a snake oil salesmen who honed his craft at Louisiana-Lafayette (GO CAJUNS) and asking: “Jesus Christ, why?” They squeaked out a win against a diminished Pittsburgh team, one with USC castoff Kedon Slovis (gross!) at the helm. The same Pitt team that lost at home to Georgia Tech. The same Georgia Tech team that fired its head coach 9 days earlier. Go Pitt, go!
Tennessee is waiting on the big one; a landmark victory that elevates them from SEC afterthought to SEC heavyweight. They have Alabama at home this week: the perennial contender, the greatest head coach in college football history. Tennessee has a chance to knock them off. What a magical moment that would be for the orange and white.
Damn shame it won’t happen.
Tennessee just isn’t ready for that moment.
“But they beat LSU by 27 points!” Nice. They should. LSU’s head coach is an Irish-catholic from just north of Boston desperately trying to convince everyone he grew up on gumbo and rode a fanboat to school. They should not have been ranked 24th, and Kelly should be in a padded cell until he snaps out of it. (Why they rank 25 teams is beyond me, anyway. The difference between being ranked 24th and 45th? Beating South Carolina at home and not losing by more than 24 against Georgia).
Alabama is down to a 7-point favorite on Saturday. When lines opened in May, they were 16.5-point favorites. Tennessee has a dynamic offense — 2nd in the nation in total yards per game (554.6) and 2nd in points per game (46.8). Alabama doesn’t lag far behind. Having cupcakes like Akron and Louisiana-Monroe on your schedule, respectively, help inflate those numbers. But the point remains, both teams move the ball, score and give the marching bands a workout. Play the fight song!
Where Tennessee gets exposed is on the other side of the ball. Per game, Alabama allows just 12.5 points per game and 271.2 total yards. Tennessee counters with 17.8 points, but 416 total yards. With or without Bryce Young, ‘Bama will move the ball. They’ll score. They’ll give the marching bands a workout.
PLAY YEA ALABAMA!
It’s a big game for the Vols. They’re relevant — truly relevant — for the first time in a while. That’s a victory in itself. Do they beat Bama? Probably not. Georgia? Not likely. But they’ll hold their own against the rest. Heading into bowl season with 10 wins is nothing to snark at. Tennessee isn’t back, but they’re on the cusp of that moment. It’s good for the SEC. It’s good for college football. It’s good for the state of Tennessee. Because outside of Nashville, I’m not sure anyone purposefully chose to live there. It’s like having a beige car. You didn’t choose it — it just sort of happened.