The old Tennessee football fan would want locusts to reign down upon Athens sooner rather than later. The new Tennessee fan is fine with sunny skies over Sanford Stadium. Why? Confidence.
Think about that as you’re picking who to root for in Monday’s National Championship Game. Georgia could win another national title, further cement itself as the elite program in the nation, but that doesn’t matter to the new and improved Tennessee fan.
The new Tennessee fan doesn’t need to be as worried about programs that have already climbed the mountain and planted the flag. Why? They’ve beaten one of those programs at its best, Alabama in 2022.
The Crimson Tide’s record, which was saddled with two losses, might not indicate as much, but Bama was in the hunt and competing for a national championship – just like the Vols. Recruits still consider Alabama elite. In his 16th season, coach Nick Saban has the top signing class in the nation. Bama still had a loaded roster led by a Heisman Trophy winner. Still, the Vols beat them in October, just in case you forgot.
So why not do the same with Georgia? Why wait for the Bulldogs to eventually fall back to the pack just like every other historically great program has done. Why wait for Georgia coach Kirby Smart to fall off or retire? Just go beat him.
That may seem like a reach after the way Tennessee was beaten by Georgia last season. It’s not. Reminder: Tennessee coach Josh Heupel just completed his second season as the Vols’ head coach in a major rebuild. Dynasties can be overcome. Georgia is proof. They’ve overcome Alabama. Tennessee is certainly trending in that direction, to vanquish its long hated rivals no matter how elite.
I’m certain no one clad in orange is going to cry if Georgia loses to Texas Christian. There might even be a grin amongst the Tennessee fan base. I certainly understand that response given the rivalry, but it’s short sighted. Georgia could lose to the Horned Frogs but the Bulldogs aren’t going anywhere. The Vols have to eventually top them instead of hoping that Georgia falters.
Sure, Georgia could benefit in recruiting if they beat TCU, but how much? They’re already No. 2 in the nation and they’ve topped the rankings in recent years. It’s up to Tennessee to reach elite status in recruiting. The Bulldogs will most likely be right there waiting.
So who are you? The old Tennessee fan, who is still shaken by years of bumbling, or the new Tennessee fan, who is checking to see where the College Football Playoff will be held next season. Be the optimist, the believer and, actually, the realist. Tennessee can and has beaten an elite program and it’s still trending upwards. There’s no sign of that changing. There’s also no sign of Georgia stumbling anytime soon so that needs to be the mindset in Knoxville.
Texas Christian has done enough to prove that Tennessee’s approach of using tempo to overcome a talent deficit works no matter what happens against Georgia. There’s no way the Horned Frogs were more talented than Michigan, but they beat the Wolverines. Any Tennessee fan would take their shot in a one-game-win-it-all atmosphere against Georgia at a neutral site. Well, at leat the new Tennessee fan would.
The new Tennessee fan would also take a rematch against the Bulldogs next month if they could get it. That’s the kind of Tennessee fan I like. The nation might not appreciate the confidence – or cockiness, but it’s refreshing.
Let’s face it. Some Tennessee fans, especially those on Twitter, don’t have a lot of crass. Well, the rest of the college football world can figure out a way to deal with that.
Tennessee’s arch nemesis in the 1990’s was Florida. Tennessee fans expected to beat the Gators every time they played them. Eventually, that came to pass. The same came to pass against Alabama last year and will – one day – come to pass with Georgia. So rooting against Georgia isn’t going to make them more beatable. Being confident and continuing on Heupel’s path is the only way to hoist a championship trophy.