If you are an honest Tennessee fan, you sort of knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?
This just in: No. 1 Alabama is pretty good.
Alabama made things look easy early and often during its 58-21 victory at Neyland Stadium. This is an all-too familiar and frustrating scene on the banks of Ft. Loudoun Lake. Last year, Tennessee watched Georgia hang the most-lopsided loss on Shields-Watkins Field, 41-0. We watched Florida dismantle a self-loathing Tennessee team 47-21 a month ago.
We even watched Vanderbilt spank the Vols at Neyland Stadium 42-24 last season.
At halftime today, Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt made it clear he’d had enough. He told the CBS sideline reporter that if his guys couldn’t get it together, he’ll just bring in 25 new guys in who do get it, that he was tired of Tennessee losing games like this.
Pruitt isn’t the only one.
Consider that since 2016, Tennessee opponents have scored 40 or more points 10 times, with the Vols going 1-9 (UT beat Georgia Tech 42-41 in OT last season). From 2009 to 2015, opponents had put 40-plus on the Vols 11 times (five if you take away the disastrous Dooley swan song of 2012, where opponents scored 40 or more six times).
In the Fulmer era (1993-2008), Tennessee adversaries scored 40 or more just nine times, and the Vols won two of those games (UK 52-50 in 2007 and Alabama 51-43 in 2003). Nine times in the Johnny Majors era (1977-1992) did Tennessee foes score 40 points or more. These events were few and far between going back 40 years or more.
During the Bowden Wyatt/Jim McDonald/Doug Dickey/Bill Battle era (1952-1976), no team scored 40 or more on the Vols.
Enough is enough. Like Balboa said in Rocky II, “I ain’t goin’ down no more.” With the five games remaining, you get the idea that Tennessee won’t let this happen again, even with allegedly good offensives in Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky remaining.
There is a silver lining. There were flashes of brilliance, e.g. two straight three-and-out possessions for Bama in the first half, Tennessee responding with two touchdowns and the Vols never quitting.
Rushing 30 times for 31 yards is a concern. Seeing Tua Tagovailova having six seconds or more to look around for receivers was disconcerting. Seeing Jarrett Guarantano taking a beating also was less than ideal. But Keller Chryst looked effective. Kyle Phillips pick-six was comforting.
Tennessee knew this was a write-off game. It won’t face another team this good the rest of the way, perhaps ever. South Carolina is coming off a disappointing loss to Mizzou. Mizzou did what it always does: beat a lesser opponent soundly. Kentucky struggled with Vanderbilt and Vandy looks bi-polar: great for one half, dismal in the next. Tennessee, at 3-4, can run the table and finish 8-4 and play in, perhaps, the Gator Bowl.
I’m not sure that will happen, but don’t judge this Tennessee team based on its performance against Alabama.
The Tide is doing this to everybody.
Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT on WRJB 95.9 FM, Camden, Tennessee.