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Cheering the catastrophe from the safety of a bye week bunker

Normally, we would just skip the bye weeks for a season review. I mean, really, it's like an agonizing condensed and concentrated version of the summer. No real news about the team, just stuff that's made up to fill space and waste time.

Not so this bye week for the Tennessee Volunteers, the fifth week of the 2007 season. No, this time we were taking advantage of the time off to take a good hard look at the punt coverage that had given up two touchdowns already this season. Sure, we had to add a soothing anti-emetic soundtrack to the thing to be able to watch it all the way through without re-tasting our twinkies, but a team had to do what a team had to do.

Even more important than correcting the kick coverage, though, were the SEC standings. We'd gotten quite used to being last in the SEC East with Florida in the lead halfway through September. It happens when you play each other so early in the season. How many years had we found ourselves crying out for calamity to strike the Gators so that we could somehow leapfrog them into the lead for the East and deprive them of their head-to-head advantage over us? We'd had a lot of practice praying for rain and hail and gnats and frogs and stuff. Thing is, it ordinarily doesn't work.

But this, this was no ordinary season. This was an extraordinary season:



In a single weekend, Cal beat Oregon, No. 18 South Florida beat No. 5 West Virginia for the second year in a row, unranked Colorado upset No. 3 Oklahoma, unranked Kansas State destroyed No. 7 Texas at home, and, most importantly to Vol fans, unranked Auburn gave Florida a sweet, sweet, sweet SEC loss.

Tennessee watched the catastrophe unfold from the safety of the bye week bunker, and when the sirens had silenced and the dust had settled, 2-2 suddenly didn't look so bad:

We, unlike Michigan, have not lost to a D I-AA school. We, unlike Notre Dame, are not 0-5, looking at a very real possibility of 0-8. We didn't lose to unranked Colorado or to unranked Kansas State, like No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas did this afternoon. We didn't lose at home to unranked Auburn like Florida did tonight or even to a No. 15 South Florida team like West Virginia did Friday night. No, we lost two away games against Cal and Florida, respectively ranked No. 6 and No. 4 going into today's games.

It's all about the SEC, and that race just got interesting again. Everybody in the East (except Kentucky) has at least one loss already. Yes, Florida currently has the head-to-head tie-breaker against Tennessee, but not only did they lose an SEC game this evening, they looked vulnerable against Ole Miss last week. Next week, they travel to Baton Rouge to play LSU.

Sure, we still had issues. But now, even at 2-2, we had hope.