Tennessee took its best swing at the No. 1 team in the nation, but never had a puncher’s chance to beat Georgia.
The Vols were beaten 38-10 by the Bulldogs in a completely understandable away. The Vols had one brief glimmer of hope when running back Jaylen Wright sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening play of the game. By the end of the first half, Georgia led 24-10 and looked the part of a two-time national champion.
As the elite football program in the nation, Georgia proved what orange and red fan bases have known for years. The Vols just don’t have enough talent to annually vie for a national championship. That could change in the coming years with fresh talent, but we’ll see.
It’s was evident that the Bulldogs had more talent than the Vols throughout Saturday’s game and it’s been even more readily apparent throughout the season. When Georgia loses a player to injury, the Bulldogs don’t miss much of a beat. That hasn’t been the case on Tennessee’s depth chart.
In more than a handful of instances this season, Tennessee hasn’t been able to adequately fill the hole left by an injured predecessor. However, let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s judge the present – and peek towards the future. First, there’s nothing for Tennessee coach Josh Heupel nor any Vol to be ashamed of with a 8-4 record in 2023, which almost assuredly will be the case after Tennessee hosts Vanderbilt to close out the regular season.
In his third season, Heupel has taken the Vols from a 3-7 record in 2020. He and the Vols have also fielded off NCAA investigators that covered Knoxville like spring pollen. Now, the Vols are in the conversation to be in the College Football Playoff and/or play in some of the best bowl games in the nation. Speaking of…
One SEC school finished the 2022 season with an 8-4 record. The South Carolina Gamecocks were invited to the Gator Bowl, which was played on Dec. 30. No, that’s not the College Football Playoff and it’s not even a New Year’s Day Bowl. However, before Heupel, let’s remember how bad things looked. Now, as the 2024 season rolls around, it’s fair for all parties to have a fair – and honest – assessment. Is Heupel a championship coach?
By 2024, Heupel should have his players, his coaches and his quarterback. Injuries, a challenging SEC schedule and some rather odd coaching calls at key times have resulted in a season that’s apt to end with just eight wins. That had better get substantially better next season or Heupel may be headed for a knockout.