Back in 1916, Georgia Tech and head coach John Heisman beat Cumberland 222 to 0. That doesn't just happen, you know, stars have to align and stuff. The story behind that catastrophe is that Tech wouldn't let Cumberland out of its contract to play the game despite the fact that Cumblerland had just disbanded its football program. So, Cumberland sent 14 guys to save the school $3,000 by fulfilling the school's contractual obligations, and Tech . . . well, the animated drive chart on that one would be something, wouldn't it?
I spent yesterday neck craned to the heavens, attempting to discern whether the planets were conspiring against the Vols this week, plotting annihilation of the team bus with an astronomical power wedge as it arrives in Gainesville next week. Consider the following:
- Saturday's reality check against UCLA, a loss that Lane Kiffin termed "embarrassing."
Jonathan Crompton reverted to 2008 form, throwing three interceptions (four, if you count the one that was negated by penalty) and losing a fumble on a botched center-QB exchange. As Mike Griffith put it in his report card, "The senior stared down receivers, overthrew open targets and then forced UT into a play-calling shell as it missed an opportunity to pick apart a young UCLA secondary." Yep.
- That play-calling shell neutered a Tennessee rushing attack that last week looked like it could rehabilitate the offense all by itself, and the running game managed only six yards on four tries when seven would have won it for the Vols.
- Despite all of that, Kiffin never once considered replacing Crompton with Nick Stephens, and it doesn't appear, at this time anyway, that he'll consider it for Florida, either.
- The disappointing loss even led to some finger-pointing in the locker room.
And now -- yay! -- we get to go to Florida to take on the Gators.
- The same Gators who were responsible for the dishumiliarrassment of 2007 and the Vols' severe allergic reaction to the red zone in 2006.
- The same Gators who won the national championship in 2006 and again in 2008 and who this year return their Heisman-winning and all-everything quarterback and all of their defensive starters.
- The same Gators who, so far this year, have outscored their opponents 118-9, haven't allowed a touchdown, and whose scoring drives average just a little over 1:40 (I did this calculation myself . . . look, Ma! Math!)
- The same Urban Meyer who Lane Kiffin falsely accused of cheating. Oh, and Kiffin publicly gloated after nabbing a couple of recruits who had been committed to Florida.
- The same Urban Meyer who exacted merciless revenge against Georgia last year for its group celebration the year before, calling timeouts for the sole purpose of extending Georgia's misery.
- The same Gators who, despite all of the personal barbs, are simply going to let their play do the talking this Saturday, which is perhaps the scariest thing of all.
- The theme of the week has already surfaced in traditional media: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."
So are the planets aligning for a historic Tennessee defeat this weekend?
Maybe. But does it matter? Not really. Vol fans have heard the beatdown talk all summer. Our own almanac has predicted it, and I don't think there's any reason to resent it. I frankly have no idea how the Tennessee offense is going to score even a single point against the Gators' stingy D, and I know our defense has held up so far this year, but let's be honest, it really hasn't been tested yet, either, and for all of his experience, I don't think Monte Kiffin has ever faced a well-oiled spread machine.
But what does it matter? Rebuilding the Tennessee program is going to be a process, one that will take some time. (Thanks, UCLA, for the reminder!) And even if Florida was somehow able to beat Tennessee like Georgia Tech did Cumberland in 1916, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Just the beginning of the process.