Tennessee football will face the triple-option in its opener against Georgia Tech. The Volunteers’ history shows that nothing helps prepare for that.
Conventional wisdom says that if you have more time to prepare for an offense like the triple-option, which Tennessee football will deal with its first game, you’re better off. If that’s the case, Vols fans should feel relief.
But unless Bob Shoop is that much better than John Chavis was at Tennessee, history tells a completely different story.
The last time the Vols faced a true triple-option team, that was an excuse. It was against the Air Force Falcons in 2006, and that game was sandwiched between two Top 10 opponents. So the Vols were caught off-guard and had to hold on to win, 31-30.
However, There was a three-year period in the late 1990s and early 2000s that told a completely different story.
In 1997, 1998 and 2000, Tennessee football faced a triple-option team in its bowl game. And with a month to prepare, the Vols still suffered blowout losses all three times.
Let’s start with 1997. They faced the Nebraska Cornhuskers, going for their third national championship in four years. And it was Tom Osborne’s final game.
The Vols had Peyton Manning and Jamal Lewis on the other side and a plethora of future Pro Bowlers on defense. It didn’t matter. They could not stop the running game of that option led by Scott Frost, and Ahman Green had a record-setting performance for Nebraska. It resulted in a 42-17 win for the Huskers.
Two years later, Tennessee football faced Nebraska again, this time Tee Martin’s final game. The Vols again lost, unable to defend the option again. Eric Crouch had a touchdown pass in that game and two different players had touchdown runs.
Again, a plethora of future Pro Bowlers left after that season to go to the NFL. But they couldn’t stop Frank Solich’s offense or Crouch this time.
Then came the next year. The Vols finished the year on a roll with freshman quarterback Casey Clausen, winning their final six games. They were two plays away from being 10-1 but settled for 8-3.
And closing out the season in the Cotton Bowl, they faced the Kansas State Wildcats. Once again, they could not stop the triple-option. Bill Snyder’s offense torched the Vols, and they lost 35-21.
Now, what do all three of these games have in common? The Vols had way better talent overall all three times, which you can see just by the NFL numbers. And they also had time to prepare for the offense.
They had a month off every time. And every time, it didn’t matter.
Despite a month off to prepare and more talent, they could not figure out the triple-option of what were at the time Big 12 North schools.
Now, you’re hearing all this talk about how an offseason should be very beneficial for Shoop and Butch Jones to prepare for Paul Johnson’s triple-option. Don’t believe the hype.
Although that was all nearly two decades ago, should we have any reason to believe things have changed?
Tennessee football’s history can help project outcomes for its future. When you look at their history against the triple-option, time means nothing. Considering the fact that Georgia Tech’s option runs through the quarterback and nobody knows who their starter will be at that position yet, it really doesn’t matter anyway.