Rest in peace, 2022 Tennessee Playoff hopes.
You lived a life longer than I could’ve ever imagined. Go figure that you also died in a way that I never could’ve imagined.
A 63-point defensive collapse, an injury to a Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback and a field rush.
Just like that, it’s gone.
It doesn’t feel like ’98. It feels like Tennessee got a painful reminder of why it’s so hard to be elite in this sport.
On a day in which every team in the top 5 was involved in a game with a single-digit margin in the second half against an unranked team, Tennessee was the only one who couldn’t come out victorious. Not only did the Vols not rally back from their single-digit deficit; they got the doors blown off by South Carolina in a 63-38 reality check loss.
Losing to Georgia was one thing. After all, that was the defending champs. In Athens.
But losing at South Carolina, AKA the team who didn’t have an offensive touchdown last week, was a different kind of gut punch. Making Spencer Rattler look like Peyton Manning wasn’t supposed to be part of the Vols’ 2022 story. It was supposed to be getting a rematch with Georgia in the first round of the Playoff and letting the chips fall where they may.
Nope. You’re reminded why the Vols haven’t finished the regular season with 1 loss since, well, 1998. You’re reminded that Tennessee is a team with exactly 1 win against an AP top-5 team in the last 17 seasons, and it has just 1 vs. an AP top-10 team in the past 15 seasons.
Tennessee sports betting officially launched on November 1, 2020. Tennessee was the first SEC state to legalize sports betting.Barstool Sportsbook Promo CodeBetMGM Sportsbook Tennessee
Let’s call it what it is. Tennessee didn’t handle success well.
It showed up in one of the more hostile atmospheres in the SEC and laid an egg. The hay was already in the barn by the time Hendon Hooker went down. He was a bit off the mark throughout on the road. Even 1 of Hooker’s touchdown passes came on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Credit South Carolina for taking its top corner, Cam Smith, and at least somewhat containing Jalin Hyatt. Those big passing plays we’ve seen from Hyatt, Cedric Tillman and Bru McCoy were few and far between.
But yeah, it’s hard to put a 38-point offensive output on Hooker and Co. It was the scrutinized Tennessee defense who laid the biggest leg of all.
Guys ran free, defenders missed tackles in space and above all else, Tennessee’s defense looked 1 step behind all night. Never mind the fact that the Gamecocks were without stud tailback MarShawn Lloyd. Never mind the fact that Rattler had 5 touchdown passes vs. SEC competition all year entering Saturday night. Never mind the fact that no unranked team had scored that many points against a top-5 team since … ever?
The 63 points South Carolina scored on Tennessee tonight are the most by an unranked team against an AP Top-5 opponent in the Poll Era.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 20, 2022
Yes, Tennessee missed Jeremy Banks, who Josh Heupel said afterwards was “unavailable.” The Brandon Turnage injury didn’t help, either.
Still, though. Championship-caliber teams find a way to work through those things. Tennessee isn’t on that level.
Maybe we were foolish to think the Vols were ready for that. It was only Year 2 of the Heupel era. Sure, there were more peaks than valleys. It was the No. 1 offense in America. How could we not be a bit intoxicated by it? So what if the defense had been a bit inconsistent? That offense could overcome anything outside of that team in red and black, right?
Wrong. Nothing was right about Saturday night.
There was no more disastrous scenario than the one that played out. It’s hard to see Playoff and Heisman hopes come crashing down on the same night. If that is indeed Hooker’s last game in a Tennessee uniform, that wouldn’t sit right. He deserved better after the joy he brought back to Knoxville.
If there’s a silver lining once Tennessee wakes up from the Saturday nightmare, it’s that Heupel and that scheme aren’t going anywhere. With the Vols’ recruiting and NIL efforts, there’s plenty more talent walking through that door.
And hey, the season isn’t over yet. The Vols could still play in a New Year’s 6 Bowl with a chance to end the season on a much different note with potentially 11 wins, 2 of which coming against rivals. Any Tennessee fan would’ve signed up for that back in August.
But that’s still a tough pill to swallow knowing the opportunity that was blown. There was no guarantee that an 11-1 Tennessee was getting into the Playoff. It sure would’ve been a tough group to eliminate if TCU suffered a loss. We’ll never know how that would’ve played out.
All we know is that Tennessee peaked too early. The team who had LSU fans emptying out of Death Valley early in the 4th quarter and who took goalposts into the Tennessee River couldn’t handle the grind that is the SEC. Two November losses were devastating in their own unique way, but they’ll both be remembered in the same way.
These Vols weren’t on that level. Maybe they will be, though quarterbacks like Hooker shouldn’t be taken for granted, and neither should an offensive line who contained Will Anderson. Shoot, we shouldn’t assume the Vols will always have a group of receivers who could keep a Nick Saban secondary on its heels.
Tennessee’s 2022 squad shouldn’t be taken for granted. It might’ve gotten the program back to national relevance, and for much better reasons than “champions of life” references or checkered board trash cans.
I suppose that reality sank in for Heupel as he was escorted off the rushed field at Williams-Brice Stadium. Whether he admits it or not, he’ll be thinking about Saturday night for a long time. He should.
Somewhere in that sea of people, a storybook season went up in smoke.
South Dakota Democrats have to make a few sacrifices to compete, according to Tom Daschle. And I don’t think Democrats do a good job taking credit for what they have done. Daschle was in South Dakota this fall for a conversation with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl as part of The Daschle Dialogues at SDSU. Daschle said he regularly reads The South Dakota Standard, which has published two of his essays and hopes to publish more, and The Argus to stay in touch with South Dakota news. “South Dakota has never been blue but it’s certainly been purple.”Tom Lawrence has written for several newspapers and websites in South Dakota and other states and contributed to The New York Times, NPR, The London Telegraph, The Daily Beast and other media outlets.4 hours ago The South Dakota Standard
Britain has also announced an "in-depth investigation" into Microsoft's planned takeover of Activision, which also produces mobile game "Candy Crush." The FTC said Microsoft had a proven history of buying up smaller gaming companies only to make the games exclusive to Microsoft – and thus inaccessible to rivals such as Nintendo or Sony. This would be a significant change for Activision that currently has a strategy of offering their games on a variety of platforms. "We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers," said Microsoft President Brad Smith in a statement. Bobby Kotick, the head of Activision Blizzard, told company staff that though the lawsuit "sounds alarming...I want to reinforce my confidence that this deal will close."18 hours ago London South East
And the spending orgy at the Winter Meetings, which rivals the 2019 and 2000 editions, if not something far from Ancient Rome, is just beginning. Tria Turner agreed Veles On an 11-year, $300 million contract that will take him to 40 years. Consider the forces at work:• It’s the first full season of a new collective bargaining agreement. Offseason started with Edwin Diaz He became the highest-paid reliever in history, agreeing to a five-year, $102 million contract with the Mets. Matthew Boyd Turned out 13 1/3 innings with sailors Last season on a one-year, $10 million contract with one of his former teams, the tigers.3 days ago South West Review
Alabama is 1 of the 4 best teams in college football. The Playoff was born in 2014 with the directive to find the 4 best teams in college football. Give us the best Playoff possible. TCU and Baylor both had better resumes, and Ohio State jumped both on Championship Weekend to reach No. Alabama is 1 of the 4 best teams in the nation.5 days ago Saturday Down South
For most of this season, it has looked like Brian Kelly was ahead of schedule in rebuilding LSU. The reality was exposed in a 38-23 loss at Texas A&M last week and it was driven home by the 50-30 beatdown that No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. A team’s lack of quality depth often shows up on special teams, and that has been the case with this depth-challenged team. They may well be back in the title game soon, perhaps as soon as next season.5 days ago Saturday Down South
Head coach Brian Kelly and the LSU Tigers did not have the game they were hoping for against the defending national champions, Georgia. Kelly brought up the point a couple times that Georgia was simply the better team Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. Brian Kelly postgame: “The best team won today, but I love the way this team competed and fought. Brian Kelly said Jayden Daniels re-injured his ankle in the second quarter as he stepped up in the pocket. He did a nice job with that.” — Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) December 4, 2022Brian Kelly: “This foundation is really strong.5 days ago Saturday Down South
(0900 EST/1400 GMT)In the wake of Wednesday's post-Powell surge, the S&P 500 index closed back above its 200-day moving average (DMA). Indeed, after a 397-trading day run of closes above its 200-DMA, the SPX ended below this moving average on Jan. 21, 2022. A dip back to the moving average on Feb. 4 did hold temporarily. This, after the moving average proved to be near-perfect resistance in mid-August. The moving average ended Wednesday at 4,050.30, and will likely dip to around 4,048.50 on Thursday.7 days ago London South East
Yet it was the Celtics' reigning basketball prince who ultimately owned the night. Jayson Tatum had eight 3-pointers and scored a season-high 49 points, and the Celtics held off the hot-shooting Miami Heat for a 134-121 victory. Tatum scored the Celtics’ first six points and had 41 points after three quarters, using his entire offensive repertoire, scoring from the outside and slashing to the basket. During pregame warmups Tatum said teammate Grant Williams predicted he would score 50 points. “Once they started knocking down a few, then everybody got involved in that.”The Heat were again without star Jimmy Butler, sidelined for a seventh straight game with a sore right knee.8 days ago NBC 6 South Florida