Do you suppose Nick Saban is losing any sleep over which quarterback will start for Tennessee on Saturday?
Do you think he fears the fierceness of the Volunteers’ defensive front now that Jeremy Pruitt instead of Jimmy Brumbaugh is directing and motivating the linemen?
Could it be the Alabama godfather doesn’t give a snap whether Tennessee blitzes or plays contain? Whether it uses pass-run options or the jumbo package? What color are the jerseys or whether the Vols do or don’t go for it on fourth down?
Comparative scores are meaningless but fun. Georgia beat Tennessee by 23. Alabama defeated the Bulldogs by 17. That makes the Crimson Tide 40 better than the Vols on my computer screen. The betting line says three touchdowns.
Neyland Stadium offers the Tennessee team a wee bit of encouragement. It would be some more if a big crowd could help on third downs.
Do not expect a miracle but let’s talk about upsets.
I have always considered The Stop and the 1959 Tennessee triumph over defending national champion LSU the most memorable of my lifetime. The Tigers were top-ranked in the country. The Tigers had Billy Cannon on his way to the Heisman Trophy. The Tigers lost, 14-13.
Key play was a Cannon try for a two-point conversion. Wayne Grubb, Charlie Severance and Bill Majors converged for what may still be the most famous stop in SEC history. The net result really wasn’t that big an upset. Tennessee came in 4-1-1 and ranked 13th.
Return with me now to 1982, third Saturday in October, Alabama in town. Tennessee had lost 11 in a row to the Tide. The Vols couldn’t stop the wishbone. There was talk that John Majors just wasn’t going to make it. He was in his sixth year.
Alabama was 5-0 and ranked No. 2. It was coming off a romp over No. 3 Penn State. The Vols were 2-2-1. Their worst scar was a home loss to mediocre Duke.
There was no reason to believe the 11-point underdogs would win – but they did. Mike Terry intercepted a pass in the end zone with 17 seconds left to seal a stunning 35-28 triumph.
That was Bear Bryant’s last visit. The goal posts went for a walk along Cumberland Avenue.
Tennessee walloped Auburn in 1985 when the Tigers were No. 1 and had Bo Jackson. Tony Robinson passed for 259 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was fabulous from every standpoint,” said Majors. “We played awfully, awfully hard and so very well. This was one of our biggest wins.”
Tennessee’s defense locked down the nation’s leading offense. Jackson got 80 yards on 17 carries and took himself out of the game in the third quarter with a bruise or strain.
The Sugar Vols made 1985 a great year.
Miami snickered at Tennessee audacity, showing up in New Orleans to block the Hurricane path to the national championship. As Chris White recalled, Miami players looked away during the handshake before the coin toss. The captain thought that was disrespectful.
Alonzo Highsmith confirmed this sentiment with a T shirt which said “The only Vols I know are A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y.”
Miami opened with a touchdown off a fake punt. That’s all it got. Tennessee dominated. Vinny Testaverde lost three interceptions and was sacked seven times.
I can’t remember if defensive coordinator Ken Donahue received a game ball. He should have. The final was 35-7.
Tennessee went to Florida in 2001. This one is loaded with memories. It turned out to be Steve Spurrier’s last game in The Swamp.
A lot of people were looking. The tragic events of Sept. 11 delayed the game from September until Dec. 1. Both teams were 9-1 with a chance to play for the SEC title. For some strange reason, the Gators were favored by 18 points.
Esteemed ESPN experts said it was a mismatch that eliminated “rivalry” as a description. Lee Corso outdid Kirk Herbstreit in royal rout predictions.
The Volunteers won a thriller, 34-32. Travis Stephens rushed for two touchdowns and 226 yards. Florida rushed for 36.
Phillip Fulmer said some bad words in the post-game celebration: “To hell with Lee Corso.”
This might have been the greatest Tennessee upset of all time.
There have been other unexpected and unforgettable victories. The 1991 game at Notre Dame comes to mind. The Irish soared to a 31-7 lead and were going for more. Tennessee mistakes were relevant.
Just before intermission, one play changed the tone. The Irish lined up for a nice, little field goal. Darryl Hardy got in the way. Floyd Miley scooped up the bouncing ball and ran for a touchdown.
A different Tennessee team won the second half. Dale Carter and Andy Kelly made big plays. Blessed by the luck of the Irish, the home team had a shot at a winning field goal. That one deflected off the posterior of Jeremy Lincoln. Tennessee won, 35-34.
That was a miracle.
Some were just upsets.
None imply another is coming.
But there is almost always hope.
Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org.