I’ve been nothing more than an amused bystander to most of the back and forth Alabama and Auburn banter prior to the Iron Bowl and since Auburn’s miraculous win less than a week ago.
You see, I’m a Tennessee fan. With that being said, I’ve most always pulled for Bama and Auburn when it didn’t directly impact the Vols. And, in recent years, I’ve been proud to see the national championship stay in state. I hope it does again so I’ll pull for Auburn to win and both Florida State and Ohio State to lose this weekend to give us an Iron Bowl repeat in the BCS National Championship.
As a UT fan, I’ve put up with the Lane Kiffin era and then the in-over-his-head Derek Dooley. So, I feel the pain emanating from Tuscaloosa this week just in an entirely different way than Tide fans. And, I certainly understand the agony Tiger fans endured a year ago during a winless SEC campaign.
Sure, Bama had Mike Dubose, but that was years ago, and it didn’t take Auburn long to get rid of Gene Chizik when the Tigers went down the tubes in a hurry. At least those guys had some success. Tennessee is going on its second half dozen years of being no better than mediocre and, in most years, just plain embarrassing thanks largely to the dynamic duo.
Kiffin left UT in shambles with the majority of his recruits abandoning Rocky Top or being asked to hit the road and Dooley thought he was recruiting to win a Sun Belt Conference title not an SEC crown.
I keep thinking every dog has his day and hoping that Smokey’s is coming soon. But, unlike most Vol fans I understand Rome wasn’t built in a day (pardon the clichés if you must).
“What in the heck are you talking about?” you ask.
“I’m rambling,” I answer. “Because it’s been the topic of discussion for the last two weeks, I’ve got football on the brain. In particular Alabama versus Auburn and my Tennessee Vols because I see similarities in how the fan bases are reacting to wins and losses.
Well, Bama got beat. The best team doesn’t always win and, in my opinion, that rang true last Saturday in Auburn. Yes, I believe Alabama is the better team. In fact, I believe they are the best team in the land week in and week out. That’s just my opinion.
Auburn is good. Gus Malzahn has done a remarkable job this season and deserves strong consideration for national coach of the year honors (so does David Cutcliffe of Duke) but Alabama still has better players. The Tide blew opportunities to put the game away more than once and opportunistic Auburn, with Malzahn pushing all the right buttons, took advantage.
At Tennessee, the buzz is about recruiting. In reading blogs and newspaper accounts Vol fans are sure this year’s near the top recruiting class will pay off next year (here is where there are similarities). Those are unrealistic expectations. The 2014 Vols will be among the youngest teams in the nation and will continue to rely on many non-SEC caliber players in key roles.
The youngsters will help but you don’t win big in a big boy conference with freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the field.
Comments on blog sites and Facebook pages dedicated to Tennessee football indicate many fans believe this year’s recruiting class, currently ranked as the second best nationwide by many services, will result in the Vols challenging for a championship next season. Ha! I’ve looked at the schedule. Tennessee will be hard pressed in 2014 to reach the 5-win total of 2013. Realistically the Big Orange is two seasons away from competing with the better teams in the nation’s best conference and 3-4 years away from challenging the top teams and that’s assuming recruiting continues at the current level.
Fan expectations often aren’t met no matter the team. We (the fans) take it all much too seriously reading more into wins and losses on the field and in recruiting than is there.
College football is a game played by 18-21 year old kids who are learning how to shave and become men who will contribute to society.
The bottom line is we forget that. We get tunnel vision and let our emotions ride the wave when its cresting and crash into shore when it breaks. That’s a shame. There are much more important things in life than football and recruiting season.