For the first time in years I watched every single minute of ESPN's College Game Day this past weekend. The crew was in Knoxville as the now eighth ranked Volunteers hosted then 20th ranked Florida and after a near-nightmarish finish to the game, Tennessee prevailed 38-33, snapping a five game losing streak in the series. I was watching to try and see my children and grandchildren who left home at 7:00 am....stood and cheered continuously for 14 straight hours and returned home just before midnight.
I was also looking at and judging the many signs in the crowd surrounding the Game Day set.
There were many creative and clever signs but my favorite was this one: "It's Great To Be A Tennessee Vol." Nothing really that special about it. Just a statement based upon the long-time cheer of the same name. One that expresses how proud Vols' fans are to be a part of the school's storied program....a program that has gone a couple of decades now without a consistent winner.... one that has weathered the storm of NCAA scrutiny after a cheating former coach's indiscretions and an entire nation laughing at them when they tried to hire a coach back in 2017. Volunteer football is back and even though it remains to be seen how long this return to glory will last, it's great for the time being.
On Saturday, Tennessee never really lost control of the game, though it appeared we were headed in that direction a couple of times. The Vols' defense couldn't really stop the Gators but each time Florida scored and cut into the lead the potent Tennessee offense would answer. The final couple of minutes of the game aged me considerably but the Big Orange held on for their fourth win of the year and it became clear that the college football world appreciated the effort because heading into an off week, they're now ranked eighth in the country.
Now, fans are expecting a win over Georgia and another one over Alabama. That's probably not going to happen and even a win over Ole Miss, LSU and Kentucky isn't guaranteed. So obviously we have a long way to go before the Vols can claim a spot in the College Football Playoffs. One thing for certain is the fact that Tennessee now has a legitimate Heisman Trophy Candidate in quarterback Hendon Hooker. As long as the Vols continue to win and as long as Hooker's stats are as good as they've been so far, his campaign will be valid.
One Tennessee fan quipped on Sunday that the only thing that kept it from being a perfect weekend was the fact that Alabama didn't lose. For this college fan, it was about as perfect as it could get. The Vols beat Florida and my alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University upset #25 Miami on the road, 45-31, never trailing in the game and building a 17-3 lead in the first quarter. Not only is it great to be a Tennessee Vol, it's great to be a college football fan!
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org