Last August, when Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton made quite the splash with his attempts to buyout the 2011-12 home-and-home series with North Carolina, no one had a clue that the Vols would end up facing the Tar Heels before 2010 came to a close.
The only thing Vols fans were thinking about in August was how in the world this Tennessee team would even make it to a bowl game.
August brought all sorts of misfortune to the UNC camp as well. During that month, an NCAA investigation led to the permanent suspension of at least three future NFL draft picks and temporary suspensions of over a dozen more players.
A full season later, the 'Heels and Vols put a nice little bow on the series that wasn't.
Coming into Thursday's Music City Bowl much was made of Hamilton's decision to buyout the contract with UNC. It was quite ironic that the team Hamilton seemingly ran from was there to face the Vols in a bowl appearance that the athletic director had deemed "mission critical" at the beginning of the season.
If Thursday night's performance was any indication of how that series would have played out, Vols and 'Heels fans should feel cheated.
Right or wrong on the officials part, the game came down to the final second of regulation and it ultimately wasn't decided until the second overtime.
With both teams decimated due to various issues, it turned out to be about as even a matchup as Music City Bowl officials could have hoped for.
While there are similarities between Tennessee and UNC losing key components of their respective teams, that's pretty much where any comparison between the two stops.
Tennessee has been rocked in recent years by coach firing/hiring mishaps, losing records, and an NCAA investigation; this was not supposed to be a "great" year for the Vols. Most estimates prior to the start of the season had the Vols anywhere between five and seven wins.
UNC, on the other hand, was going to fight for the ACC title. Behind now-banished players, Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn up front, the 'Heels had a formidable defense that only the NCAA could take out. Senior wide receiver, Greg Little --also expelled -- was set to help make an up-and-down UNC offense move more efficiently.
Now, after the remnants of a once-promising series culminated in a very exciting bowl matchup, many, especially those clad in Tennessee orange, wish the series would have never been canceled.
Vols fans would love to exact some revenge on the 'Heels for the way the Music City Bowl ended. And with UNC potentially on the verge of getting the NCAA hammer laid to its football program, the canceled home-and-away series might very well have resulted in two wins for Tennessee.
What proud program wouldn't enjoy playing a team decimated by the all-powerful hand of the NCAA infractions committee?
For now, however, fans of both teams will have to be happy (or disgusted) with the game they watched Thursday night in Nashville.
The series that wasn't will never be.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!