A question for sports fans throughout the Tennessee Valley: Did most of you just experience your best sports week ever, or at least in close to 25 years?
I ask this after seven days between last Tuesday and yesterday that included the Atlanta Braves winning their first World Series since 1995; the Tennessee Volunteers going on the road to beat No. 18 Kentucky, which was their first road victory against a ranked foe since winning at Auburn in 2018; the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs grabbing a road win at Wofford to keep their Football Championship Subdivision playoff hopes alive; the NFL's Tennessee Titans winning Sunday night at the Los Angeles Rams without the benefit of All-Pro running back "King" (Derrick) Henry, and the Atlanta Falcons improving to 4-4 on the season after winning on a last-second field goal at bitter rival New Orleans.
Oh, yeah, and this wasn't exactly a win, but because they had a bye week this past weekend, the Vanderbilt Commodores didn't lose another Southeastern Conference game.
All of which brings us to No. 1 Georgia, which rolled over Missouri in as close a thing as the Southeastern Conference has this year to an unofficial bye week, and Alabama, which survived LSU 20-14 in Tuscaloosa to keep its College Football Playoff hopes intact.
This early holiday good cheer assumes, of course, that you're a fan of the Braves, Vols, Mocs, Falcons, Titans, Commodores, Bulldogs and Tide, and it's doubtful many of you are happy when all eight of those teams win.
Still, it might be impossible to find a week that comes close to duplicating this past one in outrageous success.
Merely consider the last time the Braves won it all on Oct. 28, 1995. On that same day Tennessee rolled South Carolina 56-21 with some guy named Manning at quarterback and Bama beat North Texas 38-19. But Georgia was crushed 52-17 by Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators, UTC lost 31-18 at Appalachian State, Vandy lost 21-10 to Ole Miss and a day after that the Falcons lost 28-13 to Dallas inside the Georgia Dome. As for the Titans, they were still the Houston Oilers, though they did win at home against Tampa Bay.
Point is, you just don't get to enjoy a week like last week very often.
Yet looking forward, could all these programs — well, everyone but Vanderbilt — be headed toward even better days in the future?
The Braves can't top this season. No way. No how. In fact, I would argue that this was so much more enjoyable than 1995 mostly because it was so unexpected. Assuming pitcher Mike Soroka and outfielder extraordinaire Ronald Acuna Jr. are completely healthy by next summer's All-Star break, it's certainly possible the Braves could be better, even much better than this year' model was prior to September and October. But it will never be more fun. Never. Ever.
As for the Vols, two predictions, one made earlier this season. First, new coach Josh Heupel will have this program under playoff consideration by 2023. Second, much as Phil Fulmer never lost to Kentucky as the UT head coach, neither will Heupel.
There's a reason why UK is The Cure for anything and everything that ever ails the Big Orange football program, and when the Cats can pile up over 600 yards offense, score 42 points in regulation, control the clock for 46 of 60 minutes and still lose, there's your reason. As defensive back Alontae Taylor noted last Tuesday, "We don't lose to Kentucky."
Indeed, beginning with the 1985 season, the Vols have won 35 of 38 against the Cats. Those three they lost in 2011, 2017 and 2020 came in years in which UT's SEC record was a combined 4-22. Put another way, before Saturday night, Kentucky was 130-0 when scoring 42 points in regulation. The Cure will become The Guarantee for the rest of Heupel's tenure.
Of course, Tennessee's next opponent is Georgia, which puts its undefeated record on the line at 3:30 Saturday afternoon inside the Vols' Neyland Stadium. UT hasn't gone up against a defense nearly as stout as the Bulldogs all season but neither has UGA faced an offense as fast and electric as the Vols. An upset? Probably not. But anything that has the game in doubt in the fourth quarter should be a huge recruiting tool for the UT program moving forward.
As for UTC, as good as the Mocs have been in winning their last four starts — all in Southern Conference play and three by double-digits — they probably still need to win out at a very good Mercer team and at home on Nov. 20 against The Citadel to reach the FCS playoffs. It's certainly doable, but Mercer, particularly, will be UTC's toughest test of the season in league play.
And for all those folks who think Kentucky will lick its wounds and get back on the winning track at Vanderbilt this Saturday, consider this: UK's last two losses to UT and Miss State have come to teams that enjoyed a bye week before facing Big Blue. Could a fresh-legged Vandy continue that streak in the Music City?
As Titans defensive back Kevin Byard, who recorded the first pick-six of his career against the Rams, was wrapping up a postgame interview with NBC on Sunday night, he said, "We're not out to prove people wrong, but to prove ourselves right."
If this past week proved anything to sports fans throughout the Tennessee Valley, it's that their favorite teams are doing a whole lot more right than wrong in 2021.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.
5-at-10: Weekend winners (Mike Vrabel's great at his job) and losers (Dan Mullen), big college hoops year for Mocs, SEC and Coach K