Here were the main consequences of this actual game prior to kickoff for Tennessee:
- Win, and the ability to keep a four-year bowl streak remains alive. Also, Brady Hoke, a good person who is nonetheless not very smart, can get a second chance at a head coaching job somewhere else.
- Lose, and nothing changes for the program long-term. Probably.
They lost. Whatever. Nothing in this game was terribly surprising. The under of 45 hit with help from a pair of weathered kickers, and LSU never really felt threatened long-term past the 25-minute mark. Tennessee showed encouraging signs – receivers were able to make plays down the field in traffic, the defense stood strong for all but about two or three drives, and outside of one 36-yard gain, Tennessee held LSU and two future NFL running backs to less than four yards per carry. I thought it was a good effort for a team that’s fielding a SoCon offensive line and a C-USA defense thanks to their former head coach.
Truly, I’m thrilled for someone to read this section and yell “MOVE ON, HE GOT FIRED!” at me. But no! I’m not going to move on, because King Midas’s Idiot Brother who turns everything he touches to excrement turned a potentially formidable (and clearly talented) Tennessee team into a garbage fire MASH unit. Tennessee’s offensive line now has four scholarship linemen available because this spiteful man who does not make Michigan proud couldn’t develop talent even by sneezing his way into it. It’s pitiful. I felt terrible for several players thrown into terrible situations.
Along with that, Tennessee’s two options at quarterback, prior to about 6 PM Eastern, were Will McBride (who has a concussion) and Jarrett Guarantano (who’s maybe playing at 80% capacity at very best). How you get to a situation in Year Five where your two quarterback options are a redshirt freshman with an ankle injury and a true freshman with a concussion is beyond me. Great job, Caretaker of Tennessee football!
In fact, here’s one wild stat for you, in case you’ve still got some bizarre warm feelings left over: out of Tennessee’s 22 opening night starters, FIFTEEN (15) have missed at least one game, whether for injury or for discipline. Keep whining about bad luck all you want; this is absolutely inexcusable. It is going to be very, very hard for the next coach to replicate this no matter how bad they are, which is why I’m taking Tennessee’s stats carrying over to next year with a grain of salt. I simply cannot imagine a fourth straight season where the team loses more than 40 starts to injury across the board. Also, this doesn’t even count Darrin Kirkland, Jr., who couldn’t make it to the first game of the season without a season-ending injury.
I get that you want to respect what the former coach (we’re still not sharing his name in this space) did. That’s fine. Credit to you! Tennessee jumped back into the top 15 recruiters nationally (which they had been for, I don’t know, 25+ years prior to Derek Dooley). They got back to eight-win regular seasons. They won a couple meaningless bowl games. It’s all cool. You just need to recognize the massively awful on-field things this program has experienced, too.
The long-term consequences of The Search are immeasurable. Tennessee cannot afford a fourth-straight bomb for obvious reasons. Here’s the list of top 15 programs, historically, who survived four straight mediocre-or-worse hires over a decade, didn’t get double-digit wins or a top 15 finish from any of those hires, and still became elite again:
None. Ever. Nebraska’s about to make their fourth hire, and they can’t screw it up. That’s why they’re going all hands in on Scott Frost, who feels like a future star. It’d be nice to see Nebraska be great again. I repeat what I said in the game preview on Friday: if the next coach is not named Jon, Dan, Gary, Scott F., Mike G., or Chris, shut the program down. No one deserves to live in limbo like this for another five years. If you come at these fans with Mike Norvell, who has yet to have anything resembling even a bad defense, they should burn their tickets and find something else to do on Saturdays.
Nebraska’s likely hire of Frost will be brilliant, if based on stats alone. 2017 UCF is the highest-rated (by Bill Connelly’s S&P+) non-Power Five team since the peak Boise State teams from 2009-2011. We saw what happened when Boise’s coach left for a dormant semi-power in the Northwest. What’s gonna happen when this dude leaves for a dormant power in the Midwest? Mike Norvell ain’t doing that for you. In fact, if you’re just dying to go Dollar General shopping like you have for twenty years, there’s a coach near Miami at a commuter school who has his team in the S&P+ top 20. They’d never been in the top 40 before this season. Oh, and he’s familiar with the area as he’s been here previously.
This is not an outright refusal of a hire, because I do believe that in life, everyone deserves a fair chance at their desired thing. I also believe that some are simply more skilled or more apt than others, and I’m sick of seeing the wrong people in the wrong roles. I’ve suffered through three straight of those. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that more free time on Saturday with a fourth-straight garbage hire wouldn’t be bad at all. I’ve got plenty of yard work, discographies, and Crockpot meals to accomplish, anyway.
At this point, there is nothing left to do on our end. Go, and reel the Big Fish.