What has been a rumor for weeks, has finally turned into reality as it looks like Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin will take the same position with Penn State.
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 9, 2014
Franklin has become a hot name in the coaching world. as he’s led perpetual cellar dweller Vanderbilt to three straight bowl games.
Tennessee fans know Franklin all too well. He’ll finish his SEC career with a 2-1 record against the Vols. Franklin led the Commodores to consecutive wins over the Volunteers for the first time since the 1920’s.
Now before you start thinking that Franklin has the Vols’ “number”, it’s important to consider the circumstances surrounding those two wins.
When Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in 2012, the Vols had hit rock bottom. It was clear, at the time, that then head coach Derek Dooley wasn’t going to be around much longer for the Vols (and indeed the loss to Vandy sealed his fate). The team was in total disarray.
The only reason the Vols lost to Vandy in 2012 was because of where Dooley had led the team. Tennessee’s offense that season was historically good, but looked so out of sync against Vandy that they never stood a chance. Had anyone else been the head coach that night, there’s little doubt in my mind that Tennessee would’ve won.
The Vols’ loss to Vandy this past season is a little more complex. UT’s offense was nothing close to what it was in 2012 and for good reason — they lost nearly ALL of their offensive skill position players.
Tennessee was also playing a high number of true freshmen and they had simply hit a “wall” by that point in the season. Despite this, the Vols still nearly won the game, but they were unable to stop the Commodores late in the game.
The travesty of this all is that Tennessee won’t have a chance to redeem themselves against Franklin. The Vols are clearly on the way back up, but (unless something changes down the line) Butch Jones will always have a losing record in the SEC against James Franklin. Vol fans will never know what could’ve been in this rivalry.
Vol fans should be disappointed to see Franklin leave Vandy. Tennessee will always have more talent than Vanderbilt and I have no doubts that Tennessee would’ve went on to start a new winning streak against Vandy and James Franklin.
Unfortunately for Vol fans, we’ll never know for sure. It looks like James Franklin got the last laugh after all.