I know what you're thinking. Wasn't Tennessee embarrassed 45-31 by an average Cal team, shellacked 59-20 by Florida, then dismantled 41-17 by abysmal Alabama?
Before you get caught up in Tennessee’s “resilient” quadruple overtime win over Kentucky, understand that the Wildcats ended the season with five losses—and were nowhere near a top 25 ranking.
Remember, too, that Kentucky lost to every other East team not named Vanderbilt. Before we get into the Kentucky game, though—let’s revisit a few of Tennessee’s recent wins:
In a crucial late October game, Tennessee kicker Daniel Lincoln lined up for a game-tying 43 yard FG attempt in the closing seconds of regulation against South Carolina. He hooked it left—and the game was over. The Gamecocks celebrated their 501 yards of offense and 31 first downs in Knoxville.
Not so fast. A false start gave the Vols another chance—and wouldn’t you know it, Lincoln nailed the 48-yarder to send the game into overtime, where Tennessee watched the normally reliable Ryan Succop miss a chip shot within 40 yards to end the game. The Vols escaped with a 27-24 win.
Speaking of missed field goals, just two weeks ago, Tennessee nation had to hold its collective breath when Vanderbilt kicker Bryan Hahnfeldt’s 49 yard field goal grazed the wrong side of the uprights—nearly giving Commodore fans a chance to celebrate in Rocky Top.
Against Kentucky, the Vols’ field goal luck struck again—as Lones Seiber’s potential game-winning 35 yard line drive kick in the second overtime, flew directly into the outstretched hand of a Vol defensive lineman.
Four overtimes is exciting, but how exactly do you blow 31-14 lead in the most important game of the season? How do you explain your coach calling for a one point extra point in the third overtime? Resilient? More like gosh darn lucky.
Is Tennessee that bad? Certainly not. Who knows how the same team mentioned above put a beat-down on Georgia, or how they contained Darren McFadden and put the Hogs on lock-down. But that’s the point:
By my account, Tennessee has two good wins this season, and one of those wins was over an unranked team in Arkansas. What is this, the Big 12?
Don’t believe me, check the polls, where you will find Tennessee behind two other SEC East teams—two-loss Georgia and surging Florida—both fresh off convincing rivalry game wins.
The SEC Championship hasn’t been this meaningless in some time.
What a game it would be to watch the Georgia Morenos, err, Bulldogs against the Tigers’ defense, or the Gators seeking revenge for their mid-season heart breaker in Death Valley.
Instead, viewers will be treated to puke-orange Tennessee matched up against the yellow and purple. Even the jerseys match up horribly.
Let’s hope that LSU puts Friday’s loss behind them and plays loose football. I wouldn’t want the country to think Tennessee is the best the SEC has to offer.
For the Vols’ sake, I hope Phil Fulmer remembers that the SEC Championship is played in a dome.