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Tennessee’s loss to Georgia should be kept in perspective; The Vols are on the right path

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If you’re looking for some solace after Tennessee lost 27-13 to Georgia, just take a peek back at recent history. There have been plenty of successful college football runs that began just like the Vols have begun under head coach Josh Heupel.

The Vols might not be in the College Football Playoff this year, although that could still happen. Quarterback Hendon Hooker might not win The Heisman Trophy this season, but it’s still possible. However, after the Bulldog beatdown on Saturday, there is still one possibility that supersedes either of those monumental achievements: Tennessee is still on the correct path to winning championships. That’s not debatable.

Heupel is now 8-1 in his second season at UT. That record includes historical wins against Alabama and Florida. There is no Tennessee fan in their right mind that would have turned that down in August even if you included Saturday’s loss to Georgia as part of the package. There are a ton of things to question about the Vols’ performance on Saturday. There is no questioning that the Vols will be relevant and contenders more than they ever have been since the early 2000’s.

Let’s take a look back at some significant second seasons under some very successful head coaches that led to championships.

LSU 2001

The Tigers played in the Sugar Bowl after upsetting the Vols with some guy named Nick Saban as their head coach in the SEC Championship in his second season. The Tigers were 8-4 the season before in 2000. No one expected LSU to become a national power so quickly, but they did.

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LSU was 10-3 in 2001, but just 5-3 in the SEC. The Tigers stumbled a bit in 2002 with an 8-5 record, but won a national championship in 2003 after going 13-1 in Saban’s fourth season.  

Dave Hooker, Amanda LaFratta and Caleb Calhoun breakdown the Vols after their 27-13 loss to Georgia

Alabama 2008

Saban again. Alabama, like Tennessee before Heupel, was woeful when Saban took over the Crimson Tide in 2007. Bama finished 7-6 and even lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Saban must have been a one-hit wonder at LSU, right? Nope.

Saban led Alabama to a 12-2 record and a Sugar Bowl berth in his second season. That was a sign of things to come. Alabama went 14-0 and won the National Championship in 2009.

Georgia 2017

Kirby Smart got Georgia to a championship level quickly. After finishing 8-5 in his first season in Athens, Smart led Georgia to a 13-2 record and a national championship game, which it lost, in 2017. However, that record was slightly inflated by a very weak SEC Eastern Division.

Nevertheless, Georgia won 11 and 12 games in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Smart eventually won that national championship in 2021, which was his sixth season at Georgia.


Tennessee has already achieved far more than any one could have imagined this season. The Vols were No. 1 in the nation before the Georgia game and can still manage to squirm their way into a College Football Playoff. However, Tennessee’s success this season should be considered a building block for future success – unless the Vols can go on another magical run.

There is no denying that Tennessee’s return to glory is ahead of schedule and even aligns with some past SEC dynasties. Nothing that happened in Athens on Saturday should affect that.

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2 Responses

  1. Totally agree. no VOL fan in rtheir right mind before the season would not been very pleased to be 8-1 in Nov with wins ovce FL, LSU and AL.. We did not play our best game against GA but GA had a lot to do with this. Our OL had a bad day. We need to prepare for a fierce pace rush from teams the rest of the season.

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