The Vols clearly caught UCLA at the wrong time. The Big Orange offense was awful in early September, a fact the Bruins fully exploited en route to a 19-15 Game 2 victory at Neyland Stadium. Since that fateful evening, however, Tennessee's offense has improved steadily, while UCLA has fallen apart. After beating Kansas State to go 3-0, the Bruins have lost four straight - 24-16 to Stanford, 24-10 to Oregon, 45-26 to Cal and 27-13 to Arizona.
Would Tennessee beat UCLA if the two met today? Almost certainly.
The Vols caught Auburn at the wrong time, as well. Tennessee was playing its first game without injured middle linebacker Nick Reveiz, and the Tigers exploited some Big Orange defenses lapses to post a 26-22 victory. Since that game capped a 5-0 start, Auburn has imploded, dropping consecutive games to Arkansas (44-23), Kentucky (21-14) and LSU (31-10). After completing 19 of 32 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown against UT, Tiger QB Chris Todd has unraveled. In his last three games he has completed just 33 of 66 passes for a paltry 260 yards with two interceptions and zero touchdowns.
Would Tennessee beat Auburn if the two met today? Almost certainly.
Now it appears timing may be working against Tennessee again. After grossly underachieving in Games 1 through 6, Ole Miss appeared to right itself over the weekend. The Rebels thoroughly dominated a very good Arkansas team en route to a 30-17 win at Oxford. Ole Miss posted huge advantages in first downs (31 to 13), total yards (553 to 299), rushing yards (221 to 45) and time of possession (37:13 to 22:47).
For the first time all fall the Rebels looked like a squad worthy of their top-10 national ranking in preseason. If they continue on their current path they will represent an imposing challenge when Tennessee visits Oxford on Nov. 14.
Would Tennessee have beaten Ole Miss two weeks ago? Almost certainly.
Timing is everything, especially in the wacky world of college football.