Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Can Derek Dooley stop or even slow the current reversal of fortunes that Tennessee and Vanderbilt seem to be currently experiencing?
The following is a guest post from John Cave Osborne, the lead guy at All VOL Y'all. When you're done reading here, head on over and check out some of his other stuff. Dude has triplets, so he's not one to trifle with.
So, Tennessee's a four-point underdog to Vandy this weekend and I'm all bent out of shape about it. I mean, c'mon, y'all. Remember when losing to the Commodores never even crossed our minds? Oh, sure, there were close calls every now and again. The 17-10 affair in Peyton's senior year comes to mind. But we never actually thought we were going to lose that game. Or any of the other ones, either.
Because we were Tennessee. An SEC juggernaut. And they were Vanderbilt. An SEC doormat.
It was great to be a Tennessee Vol, alright. But to be a Vanderbilt Commodore? Puh-lease. Their biggest claim to fame was a collection of preppy rich guys riding around in their 7-series Beemers, armed with double surnames like Whitworth Montgomery or Beckett Gettlefinger -- only the inevitable roman numeral at the end distinguishing these clowns from some bad downtown law firm.
Poor guys. I mean, sure, they may have all had trust funds, but that couldn't have possibly made up for the collection of frigid shrews that served as their coeds. And even that plight pales in comparison to the real cross they had to bear -- supporting that God-awful football team of theirs. Here's the kicker, though - they never saw it as such. Because each and every year they possessed impossible optimism. That the upcoming campaign would be their year. The one where the Dores would finally have a winning season.
And no such season would ever come about.
Which is exactly why the Vanderbilt landscape is littered with countless coaches who were once believed to possess the powers of program-resuscitation. (Can you resuscitate something that's never been alive?) Men like Rod Dowhower, Woody Widenhofer, and Bobby Johnson, coaches who, despite comically virile names, would inevitably peter out. Because when it came to turning a perennial loser into a winner, every last one of them proved impotent.
Enter James Franklin just two seasons ago, and once again the Commodores were confident that their fortunes were about to turn -- that they'd found their man. And Franklin talked the talk, just like so many of his predecessors.
But as far as I was concerned, they'd not found the answer to their football woes. Just some dude who looked like a dorky version of Shaka Smart was all. Proof. Which meant that Vanderbilt would still be Vanderbilt. Laughable in a harmless way, as so aptly underscored by the whole no-athletic-director thing they've got going on.
Silly richies! Even the field they play on is hard to take seriously. (Aw, Dudley! SO CUTE, guys!)
So yeah, at first, I took James Franklin about as seriously as I take Katy Perry. But that was 23 games ago, and so much has changed since then. Not only for Vanderbilt, but also for Tennessee. Consider the following:
In Franklin's first year, the Commodores qualified for a bowl game for just the fifth time in school history. Tennessee didn't go to a bowl game last year thanks in part to losing to Kentucky for the first time since the Reagan administration.
Vanderbilt has already compiled six wins this year which means they've become bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever. Tennessee must win out just to get to a bowl game this year, and if they don't, it will mark the first time since 1978 that the Vols have failed to qualify for post season play in consecutive years.
In the past two seasons, Vanderbilt has six conference victories. The Vols have one. (In overtime. Against Vanderbilt.)
This year, the Dores have already notched four SEC wins, their most since 1982. The Vols? That'd be zero. In fact, even if Tennessee wins out, they'd still only have three SEC wins in the past two seasons. You have to go all the way back to 1976-1977 to find a two-year stretch that boasts such futility.
Last week, Vanderbilt completed a 17-point comeback on the road against a team they weren't supposed to beat. Meanwhile, Tennessee let a 14-point lead slip away at home against a team they should have throttled.
Vanderbilt won on their last drive of the game. Tennessee allowed the game-tying touchdown (on a 4th and 12) on the last drive in regulation.
Wait. Check that. That was the next-to-last drive of regulation. We all know what happened on the last drive. We let the clock wind down, apparently content to head to overtime. Which is much more reminiscent of a perennial loser like Vanderbilt than a tradition-rich school like Tennessee.
If all of that isn't enough to make you appreciate the reality of this bizarro world we've suddenly found ourselves in, perhaps this will do the trick: Even if the Vols win out, they'll still finish the 2012 regular season behind Vanderbilt in the SEC standings. For the second season in a row.
That's never happened before, people.
All of which has left me grasping for straws. Which is why I should just circle back and make fun of the bow-tie wearing richies with their ascots and double surnames, right?
Wrong. Even that's not safe anymore. Because everything has turned, folks. You start ragging on the richies this year and you've just opened yourself up to a long night of butt-chugging jokes.
So I'll try this route, instead. Of Dooley's four conference wins, two of them have come against Vanderbilt -- one of those being his lone SEC road win. Which means that even as historically bad as Dooley's Tennessee teams have been, he's still had Vandy's number.
And I, for one, am hoping he still has it. Because the Vols need to dial up a victory to help stop this reversal of fortunes that's playing out before our very eyes.
Most think it's too late to save his job, but Dooley a smart guy. So surely he realizes that it's never too late to save a little face. At least against Vanderbilt. Because we don't lose to them.
Not even this year.
If you like this post, check out some of John's other work at his site, allVOLyall.com.