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Tennessee Football: 3 Reasons the Vols Could Have Thrived in the College Football Playoffs

It was difficult to watch the semifinals of the College Football Playoff and not wonder how Tennessee would have fared. From my perspective, just fine.

Here’s why:

Georgia looked beatable

Perhaps it is time to give that Tennessee-Georgia game another gander. Sure, it looked like a sound beating in November, but what if Georgia’s crowd didn’t have the pre-game motivation to be as loud as they’ve ever been? What if that first quarter punt had been returned instead of being ruled down inside the one-yard-line? 

Had Tennessee made the College Football Playoff, the Vols wouldn’t have beaten Georgia on Saturday because the College Football Playoff committee wouldn’t have aligned the two SEC teams to play in the semifinals. However, Ohio State didn’t have any trouble scoring against the Bulldogs, who eventually won 42-41. In a different circumstance, could the Vols have managed more points than they did in their 27-13 loss to the Bulldogs? No doubt.

No one outcoached anyone during the semifinals

Based off what I saw from Ohio State coach Ryan Day and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, I’d take Tennessee coach Josh Heupel over either when it comes to in-game management. Day should have bettered Ohio State’s field position on the Buckeyes’ final drive, which ended in a missed 50-yard, potential game-winning field goal attempt. The long kick sailed off course and Georgia survived.

In the Michigan-Texas Christian semifinal, Harbaugh decided to let approximately 45 seconds run off the clock when trying to stop Texas Christian in the final moments of their semifinal game when Michigan needed the ball back trailing 51-45. Not surprisingly, the Wolverines ran out of time when they did get the ball back and were forced to rush on offense in a frantic final drive.

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Tennessee never quit

Any talk of the Vols playing in the College Football Playoff is irrelevant because of what happened in that disastrous game in South Carolina. However, that game provides some insight as to what the Vols were made of. Tennessee didn’t fold after the South Carolina game and didn’t fold after they were left out of the College Football Playoff field. 

Tennessee hammered Clemson 31-14 in the Orange Bowl on Friday. I’m sure the Vols had fun on the trip, but they handled the Tigers with a business-like approach that Warren Buffet would have envied.

Here’s something you already know: the 2022 Vols had moxie. They wouldn’t have shied away from the bright lights of a playoff setting.

No one knows if Tennessee would have won a College Football Playoff game on Saturday had they been included. However, I’ll say this with certainty. The Vols would have had a good showing, even without injured quarterback Hendon Hooker in action. That’s a pretty good sign for Tennessee’s football team moving forward.

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