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Hope petitions for another year of eligibility

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You have to want it, and you have to look for it, but there is a reason to appreciate the 2013 season.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

You know us. RTT's tagline has been "Hope lives here" for some time now. We joked on a podcast earlier this season that Hope is now a sixth-year senior, but you know, at least he's still on the roster. It's a funny thing, the more you look for hope, the more it becomes both easier and more difficult. Easier, because you've developed the tendency, but more difficult because the longer it is deferred, the harder it is to find. And the more you squawk on about it, the sooner others will roll their eyes the moment you open your mouth.

Fortunately, I don't really care about the latter phenomenon, and I'm going to say what I'm thinking anyway. It's a thought conceived in that increasing mire where hope lives, but hides. Where you can find something to believe in, but only if you want to and only if you look for it.

So here's the positive thought of the day, still coated in a nasty shell of reality. The 2013 Tennessee football season died Saturday night against Vanderbilt. The Kentucky game will not somehow miraculously ressurect bowl eligibility, which was the second of three goals going into the season. (The first was getting a big upset win against a rival, which we did against South Carolina; the third is holding on to the 2014 recruiting class.) So as much as we wanted it, we can't really call the 2013 season entirely successful, even when measured against fairly modest goals. We got one of the questions right, but we didn't ace the test.

So where's the positive? The 2013 season didn't die until Week 12. I don't know about you, but I was engaged and enthusiastic for more of the season this year than I have been for a long time. Yeah, getting embarrassed by Oregon hurt, but it wasn't really unexpected. Losing a great opportunity against Florida, same thing, although that one hurt a little more because the expectations shifted so suddenly mid-game. The Georgia game ended poorly but sparked real hope, and the South Carolina game gave it flame. We came back down to reality against three teams currently in the top 5 of the BCS rankings, but that was easy enough to write off as competition simply still out of our league. That a couple of those teams were surprisingly good made it a little more difficult to digest, but it doesn't change the fact that they are in the running for the national championship, and we played them three consecutive weeks.

This season, instead of hope being deferred to next year by the third week of the season, it was instead death of hope that was deferred until the second-to-last game. Sure, part of that was expertly managing expectations, setting the season up for modest goals of only one big win, bowl eligibility, and an elite recruiting class. And one of those goals is off the table, but another one is already achieved, and the most important one is still right on target.

It's all about the recruiting class now, and then Team 118 after February. But yeah, I can still find a little nugget of satisfaction in the 2013 season: The fun part lasted longer than any of the prior three seasons, and I for one enjoyed it more.

The Kentucky game does still matter in at least one way. Finishing well, finishing on a good note instead of a sour one, will matter and could impact the recruiting class. So how have the Wildcats done this season?

@Kentucky Wildcats (2-9, 0-7 SEC, NR)

  • Week 1: Lost to Western Kentucky, 35-26.
  • Week 2: Beat Miami of Ohio, 41-7.
  • Week 3: Lost to Louisville, 27-13.
  • Week 4: Off.
  • Week 5: Lost to Florida, 24-7.
  • Week 6: Lost to South Carolina, 35-28.
  • Week 7: Lost to Alabama, 48-7.
  • Week 8: Off.
  • Week 9: Lost to Mississippi State, 28-22.
  • Week 10: Beat Alabama State, 48-14.
  • Week 11: Lost to Missouri, 48-17.
  • Week 12: Lost to Vandy, 22-6.
  • Week 13: Lost to Georgia, 59-17.
  • Joel feels __________ about this game this week: WORSE BUT STILL A WIN. I do think these guys are better than their horrible record suggests, but I also think (and hope) that the Vols can pull it out and finish well.

Conclusion after Week Thirteen

Opponent Preseason Prediction Revised Prediction Result
Austin-Peay W W W
Western Ky. W W W
Oregon L L L
Florida L L L
South Alabama W W W
Georgia L L L
South Carolina L L (but W) W
Alabama L L L
Missouri W L L
Auburn W L L
Vanderbilt W W L
Kentucky W W
Record 7-5 5-7 4-7 (1-6)