Somewhere in a fraternity house on the campus of the University of Tennessee sits a group of teenagers with their heads down, mourning the loss to UCLA and the dampening it put on an off season filled with so much promise.
I can sympathize. But believe me, the season isn’t over.
Though my teenager years are lost in the rear view mirror, I’m no less exempt now from the rise and the fall of emotion that is attached to each and every game the Volunteers play.
So in spite of the devastating loss to the Bruins on Saturday, and the impending beat-down many believe Tennessee is sure to receive from Florida this weekend, allow me to quote someone closer to my intelligence level in John "Bluto" Blutarsky.
"Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
That’s not just a line from the movie "Animal House," it’s a philosophy. Win or lose in Gainesville Saturday, the program will move on. No matter how big the winning margin is, or how close the outcome might be, the winner is only awarded one win and the loser is only credited with one loss.
The Florida Gators, for all their horn blowing, realize they had better get their shot in now while the gettin' is good. Forecasting over the next several years, it's safe to assume that this will be the weakest Tennessee will be and the strongest Florida will be for awhile.
With Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff's ability to recruit, Tennessee will start to close the gap in talent and depth with the Alabamas and the Floridas of the league. In addition, the NCAA will eventually force Tim Tebow to graduate at the conclusion of the season.
What’s lost in all the talk of Florida blowing out Tennessee is that this is truly an opportunity for the Vols. It’s an opportunity to throw a wrench in the plans of Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer. Every 16-year-old high school football player watching this game knows Florida is going to try and rub it in against the Vols on Saturday.
They have heard how impeccable of a coach Meyer is.
They have heard how unbeatable Heisman-winner Tebow is.
They have heard how dominating the Florida defense is.
They have heard how Florida’s players used press clippings from Tennessee to motivate them in the weight room during the offseason.
They know Meyer wants to run the score up on Kiffin.
So what happens if it’s not a blow out?
What happens if Florida fails to hang the 50, 60, or 80 on Tennessee that has been talked about by the Florida faithful?
It’s possible that the kids watching this game see a team in orange and white that won’t simply roll over and die.
It’s possible that those kids see a team from Tennessee that plays with passion, discipline and purpose.
If the game goes into the fourth quarter, then it’s possible that those kids see a team that is on the rise in the SEC.
Maybe Florida ends up doing more for Tennessee recruiting than any visit to the campus would. Not that Kiffin needs a lot of help in the recruiting department, but there are still a lot of holes to fill.
Tennessee is working toward the future, not just Saturday.
No, it’s not over till we say it is.
So here is a note to all the Florida chest beaters. It doesn’t matter how many points you beat Tennessee by on Saturday, it simply isn’t over.
Up on the hill…it’s just beginning.