Deep breaths, and repeat after me: "It's not as bad as last year."
One year ago this weekend, the same scenario presented itself: our two biggest rivals were and are the two best teams in college football. The winner is guaranteed a shot at the National Championship. Tennessee has not beaten Florida since 2004, Alabama since 2006.
It's not as bad as last year.
The only difference this time around is us.
Last year, Florida and Alabama played for everything seven days after we said farewell to our coach of seventeen years, at the end of the longest and most difficult season of our generation, if not every generation. Lane Kiffin was six days old and we knew nothing.
I tried to watch the game last year. You knew it was going to be a great one, it was a game of historic importance for the SEC...and I made it through about a quarter and a half. And then I had to stop...because there was too much to be depressed about in Knoxville and too much elation in Tuscaloosa and Gainesville. If there is a worse scenario as a Tennessee fan than what happened last year, I don't want to see it.
This year, the stakes are the same for Florida and Alabama. They beat us again, though by only a combined 12 points instead of 44. But instead of being in the pit of despair...Tennessee is right where they should be at the end of Lane Kiffin's first season. We're generally satisfied with what we've seen in the last 365 days, and also, we have a big game of our own to look forward to in four weeks. Obviously, it's nowhere near as big as Saturday's contest in the Georgia Dome...but when the Vols are there on New Year's Eve, it can become the next step in the process en route to a return visit for reasons other than the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
This year, I'm going to watch. And I'm going to try and enjoy it.
Still...the Tennessee fan faces an impossible choice tomorrow. I don't know about you, but for me it's impossible to watch a football game as a neutral observer - you always end up cheering for someone, even if you go into it with no perceived dog in the fight. Even when it means either Todd Jones or Spencer Hall is going to sing Rocky Top, it's hard for the Tennessee fan to take any particular pleasure in either of these teams winning.
So, we ask you...who would you like to see win? And I know that if I put "Tornado returns to finish Georgia Dome off" as an option, it would win in a landslide. But we're curious to see what you think, so here it is, the worst poll in the history of this fine website: