THE BIGGEST SURPRISES OF 2007: #2 - MAKING IT TO THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

A poll taken in August, 2007 revealed that 29% of Vol fans believed Tennessee would go 10-2 in the regular season. Then came the Cal loss, and, two weeks later, the dishumiliarrassment at Florida. Suddenly the Vols were 1-2 to start the season, and the mojo was falling. The win against Arkansas State didn't do much to quell any discontent, but the Dawg Whoopin' did. Then came the embarrassing loss to Alabama, and mutiny was rising.

Tennessee was now 4-3 overall, 2-2 in the conference, and on the edge of disaster. Meanwhile, Florida was 3-2 in the conference with the tiebreaker over the Vols. Steve Spurrier was also 3-2, courtesy of LSU and . . . Vanderbilt, and Georgia was 3-2, thanks to the Vols and Steve Spurrier. Kentucky was getting national attention with a 2-2 conference record, thanks to Florida and Spurrier. So, we needed Florida to lose again, and, to stay tied with Georgia, we needed to win the rest of our games, including those against Steve Spurrier and Kentucky.

October 27, 2007, was an eventful day:

Well, how was your Saturday? Mine was just lovely, thank you very much. It began with perfect autumn weather and a wistful hope for SMQ's Scenario Four: where Tennessee not only beats Steve Spurrier, but Georgia also beats Florida.

Well, we got that plus a little something. Call it Scenario 4A, where not only do both of those things happen, but SMQ's given (that Mississippi State would lose to Kentucky) also gives up the ghost. First, Sylvester's Bulldogs Croom the 'Cats. Marvelous. Then, Richt's Bulldogs end the game against Florida ahead in both personal fouls and points and essentially eject the Gators from the driver's seat in the SEC East. Outstanding.

The Volunteers then happily took the wheel and joy-rode to a 21-0 halftime lead over Steve Spurrier. That was when things got really interesting.

How interesting? Ainge went cold. We stopped trying to run the ball. We got 62 total yards of offense in the second half, and the Gamecocks scored 24 unanswered points. Actually, those points were answered with a resounding "Huh?" Then, with a minute left to play, LaMarcus Coker returned a kickoff 47 yards . Ainge drove a bit and the team gained 18 yards on an Arian Foster fumble, thanks to Jacques McClendon. Once we got into game-tying field goal territory, Daniel Lincoln attempted a game-tying field goal . . . but missed . . . but the attempt was negated by a Volunteer penalty. He made the second. In overtime, Lincoln hit another field goal, and Steve Spurrier's kicker missed his. At the end of the day, Tennessee was in the driver's seat in the SEC East.

But we still needed to win the rest of our games. Louisiana-Lafayette was a breather, and the Hog Whoopin' was a breath of fresh air. But we needed a timely roughing-the-kicker penalty and a just-missed field goal by Vandy to beat the Commodores and a five-OT Fiddlin' on the Roof performance to get past Kentucky in Lexington.

Andy may have correctly predicted the scenario, but all in all, it was an extremely improbable journey to the SEC Championship Game this season.

See also:

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