Most of the Tennessee fan base is not excited to be going bowling in Nashville this year. Why? Because, this was the year Tennessee was going to win the east, this was the time Tennessee was in the national championship hunt, and the fact they had spent the last two seasons in Florida during the bowl madness, makes Nashville seem a little bit less sexy for sure.
But, do the Vols themselves feel less excited? ……..They Shouldn’t
In fact, they should feel more excited to even have reached a bowl game at all. You see, Tennessee was dangerously close to not even having 6 wins on the season. Now, you can flip that around and say Tennessee was dangerously close to having 11 wins on the season as well. But, that story is not as much fun to write.
It all started on a Thursday night on the very first day of September, against an Appalachian State team who has had their share of opponents from Power 5 conferences in the past. The Vols were outgained 184-127 on the ground in the contest and trailed 13-6 heading in to the 4th quarter. Ultimately the Vols beat the Mountaineers in overtime and VolNation used “It was the first game” as a calming medicine. Should have been 0-1 to start their top 10 campaign.
Now, I will give them “The Battle at Bristol”, to a certain extent they won that game by 3 scores and showed signs of a great team after trailing in that game 14-0. I will also give them the Ohio game. A game in which they never trailed, but looked far from great in a 28-19 victory. (Should have been 2-1, Actually 3-0)
Florida came to town and this was “the game”. For 11 years, the Florida Gators beat Tennessee and it was just a given to everyone that if Tennessee didn’t win this year, they may never beat Florida again. However, Tennessee trailed 21-0 late in the first half and 21-3 at halftime. Tennessee rallied and outscored Florida 35-7 in the second half and the hype train was back at full force. ( Should have been 2-2, Actually 4-0)
Next the Vols traveled between the hedges to take on a Georgia team that had just got throttled by Ole Miss the week before. Tennessee trailed 17-0 at one point and was outgained 392-357, but we all know what happened at the end of the game.( Should have been 2-3, Actually 5-0)
Luck would have it, that their luck would run out, and the Vols actually lose the next 3 games. Texas A&M was a top 10 showdown that did not disappoint, an awesome game. Alabama well, was Alabama and the train that is the Crimson Tide. Add to that the Vols unprecedented injuries and they got rolled. South Carolina was the game UT would get back on track, but didn’t. (Should have been 2-6, Actually 5-3)
Tennessee Tech was no match for the Vols, but bare with me if you will.
Yes, Tennessee won the next two games, but if you know anything about football at all, you know they shouldn’t have. The Vols gave up 635 total yards(443 rushing) to Kentucky, and 740 total yards(420 rushing) to Mizzou. Add to that a game they actually did lose to Vanderbilt, while giving up 608 yards of total offense. The SEC is a big boy conference and ordinarily if you rush for that kind of yardage, you win…..and win big. (Should have been 3-9, Actually 8-4)
Now, I love Tennessee just as much as the next guy. I was raised an East Tennessean, but my parents also taught me to be thankful for what you have, and to not be upset with what you don’t. So, VolNation, this holiday season, let us be thankful for an eight win season and the fact the Vols aren’t searching for a head coach this offseason……………yet.