Ten years ago — nearly to the day — I headed down I-75 with my college buddies to watch Tennessee take on Auburn in the first SEC Championship game to be played in Atlanta. It was Peyton Manning’s final conference game, and I gathered together my meager savings and bought a new orange Adidas “power-T” heavy sweatshirt. I burned up in the Georgia Dome that night, but the Vols managed to burn down the Auburn Tigers.
Fast forward a decade. Different location (my living room in Virginia). Different Tigers (some teams in the SEC aren’t all that original). Different winner. The only similarity between today’s game and the 1997 SEC Championship was that yours truly wore the same sweatshirt.
To their credit, the Vols kept their play consistent. For the previous three weeks, they had interspersed moments of brilliance with moments of sophomoric folly. This time the Vols gave, and LSU was bright enough to take. In each of their previous three losses, the Big Orange were beaten soundly. This game was the Vols’ to lose, and they lost it well.
It’s a shame that Erik Ainge’s otherwise solid, consistent career at UT has to marked with such painful interceptions. There are interceptions, and there are interceptions. Just as there are missed field goals, and missed field goals.
Sigh. 9-4. Oh yeah — I’m forgetting the bowl game.