SEC Outsider: Tennessee set to win national title on a wing, a fling and a prayer

This is, admittedly, a terrible thought and a disclaimer must be made up front.

As Hurricane Matthew barrels down on the Southeast, the outsider’s immediate concern is for the safety and well-being of everyone in the area.

The second thought is: how is this going to help America’s Greatest Football Conference?

The SEC, see, isn’t just the best league, year in and year out. It also catches more breaks than Laird Hamilton.

We started thinking it was going to be one of “those” years again last Saturday when Tennessee Coach Butch Jones kissed the sacred ground in Athens after his team’s Hail Mary win over Georgia.

“What can I say?” Jones said.


By the end of the year the Vols’ famous fight song, possibly the most annoying this side of USC’s incessant drum drone, might have to be altered.

Good ol’ Lucky Top. Lucky Top, Tennessee.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The SEC never ceases to impress and depress those outside of it with its rare combination of power, promotion and prestidigitation. Why does the league that already has everything need more?

It’s like Kate Upton also receiving a Nobel Prize in Science.

Here’s what Tennessee defensive lineman Corey Vereen said after Saturday’s miracle win over Georgia kept the Vols undefeated and knee-deep in national title race.

“That’s the stuff I usually watch on TV,” he said. “It normally doesn’t really happen like that.”

Oh yes it does. We’ve been watching it in the SEC for 20 years.

Shoot, it’s already happened to Tennessee this year.

We understand good teams win close games, and that the Comeback Vols have already shown plenty of grit and moxie.

But, come on, for crying out loud, Tennessee should have two losses this year.

No way it should have escaped its opener against Appalachian State. That should have been a title-disqualifying loss.

Yet, the Vols prevailed in overtime when quarterback Joshua Dobbs fumbled forward into the end zone, only to have the ball recovered by a teammate…for a touchdown.

And Tennessee was only able to win last Saturday because of Georgia’s ineptness after scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left.

Two Bulldog penalties after the score—one for unsportsmanlike conduct and the other for being off sides—allowed Tennessee the field position to make the last-second heave.

The SEC has won 10 national championships in the BCS-era starting in 1998-- some in unbelievable fashion—so maybe it’s Tennessee's turn again.

The Vols won the first BCS title flipping us the fickle foam middle finger of fate. It started with a questionable pass interference penalty in the opener that led to a 34-33 win over Syracuse.

The Vols also, improbably, defeated Arkansas that year when Hogs’ quarterback Clint Stoerner fumbled without being touched.

Tennessee then faced Florida State, for the national title, in the Fiesta Bowl. The Seminoles had to play without starting quarterback Chris Weinke, who was injured.

Who knows how Hurricane Matthew, this weekend, will impact the delicate balance of a season.

Hurricane Georges played a huge role in 1998---against UCLA, which had to postpone an early-season game against Miami because of storm. The Bruins were forced to make up the game in early December, with a national title berth on the line, and lost a heartbreaker to Edgerrin James and Co.

Poor UCLA Coach Bob Toledo. That 1998 storm led to his ultimate downfall in Westwood. Years later, Toledo was coaching at Tulane when Katrina swept through New Orleans.

I sat in Toledo’s office post-Katrina and said: “What is it with you and hurricanes?”

Think of how many other SEC titles that may have been graced by the hand of Robert E. Lee.

Auburn’s 2010 championship run was one Houdini escape after another.

Florida won in 2006 only after clipping Michigan for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings by the unexplainable margin of .9445 to .9344.

The next year, two-loss LSU sneaked into the title game after a series of final weekend implosions.

In 2008, Florida survived a home loss to Mississippi and in 2009, Alabama needed two blocked kicks to survive Tennessee.

In 2011, Alabama got a controversial rematch against LSU by winning the second BCS spot over Oklahoma State by the margin of .9419 to .9333.

What does that even mean?

So, while we’d like to wish Tennessee the best of luck this season, we know the Vols won’t need it.

They’ll probably win at Texas A&M this weekend on a ricochet off someone’s helmet.

More power to them.

The person who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” must have slept through the SEC’s reign since 1998.

The combination you really can’t beat is lucky AND good.[/membership]