2017 was supposed to be rock bottom for the Tennessee Vols.
Losing eight games in a season was supposed to be as bad as it would get for Tennessee.
After winning five games in 2018, and beating Auburn and Kentucky, 2019 was supposed to be a year where major progress was made.
But that’s not how the year started.
A 38-30 loss to Georgia State, in which most of the players and staff looked like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world, revealed a new rock bottom for Tennessee. One where a loss to a non Power-five opponent, something that never happened under Derek Dooley and Butch Jones, is a thing.
The only person not surprised by the outcome of the game on Saturday was probably Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliot. He saw all he needed to see on tape to know his team had the ability to wreak havoc against one of the SEC’s most storied programs.
Elliot told reporters after Georgia State’s win that he saw “glowing flaws” when watching Tennessee’s film. He mentioned that he believed his team had the quickness to give UT’s offensive line some issues and he thought Georgia State’s offensive line could push the Vols’ defensive line around.
He was right.
And oh boy is that bad for Tennessee moving forward.
Georgia State, a two win program that’s existed for fewer years than Tennessee’s “decade of despair”, should not be pushing around any Power-five programs. Let alone one that’s supposedly taking a “big step” this season.
To add insult to injury, Elliot concluded his press conference by saying he believed Georgia State could’ve run the same play over and over and had success.
Elliot’s not wrong. Tennessee couldn’t stop Georgia State. They were absolutely bullied by a team that’s supposed to be less athletic and less talented. Georgia State did what they wanted offensively. If not for a few sustained drives from the Vols where they managed to eat some clock, Georgia State likely would’ve scored close to 50 points.
Look, this isn’t the first bad loss in the history of the sport for a college football program. And it doesn’t mean Tennessee is dead. Nick Saban and Alabama losing to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007 will always be brought up when a loss like this happens. The Vols can definitely recover from this.
But the issues clearly run deeper than just effort. The loss to Georgia State should certainly serve as a wake up call for Tennessee, but there are some size/speed/scheme issues up front that have to get fixed before the Vols can crawl out of the cellar.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, I’m not sure anyone, including Jeremy Pruitt and his staff, knows how those issues will get fixed.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports