Before the weekend began, it appeared that, for the first time all year,

Vol fans would be left without a reason to cheer.

The football team had concluded their regular season, and the men's

basketball team was playing up in Pittsburgh. A noon tip-off that was

televised on Big East television, the game was only going to be viewed by

the most faithful of Big Orange basketball fans.

Or a sports editor who has given up his rock-and-roll lifestyle and now has

the capacity to wake before noon on a Saturday.

So, without any Tennessee sports to write about, I watched the game with

the hopes that something worthy of a commentary would develop.

At first, I thought I would be writing a scathing commentary on the Vols'

lack of explosiveness and focus, as they fell behind early and struggled

throughout the first half.

But such has been a common theme for UT throughout this early season, as I

have watched them fumble through a clumsy first half nearly every game,

only to regain their composure and take it to the rack in the second

stanza.

So after a halftime meal of eggs, sausage and some Kroger-brand orange

juice, I returned to my sofa, waiting for the offensive eruption.

Fortunately, the wait was quick and painless, as UT once again charged out

of the second half gate and went on to outscore the undermatched Panthers

52-23.

The win was especially important, considering UT lost their first three

road games of 1998 and never really regained composure after the

defeats.

But as impressive the Vols' win was, it's hard to get UT fans off the topic

of football, and the SEC championship game provided ample

conversation.

Coming into the matchup, nearly everyone in the nation expected a Florida

rout. No one believed that Spurrier could be beaten twice in one year,

especially by an Alabama team that ended the Gators' 30-game home winning

streak on Oct. 2 on what many called a fluke.

It seems that someone forgot to tell the Crimson Tide who, with their 34-7

beating of the Gators, are now the best team in the SEC.

Yes, Alabama, a team that Tennessee manhandled in Tuscaloosa earlier this

season, is now the best team in the SEC.

It may be hard to believe for Tennessee fans, who have seen the Vols beat

up on the Tide for the last five seasons, but denying the Tide their

respect would be to deny the Vols the title of the best in the SEC over the

last two seasons, especially in 1997, when the Vols won the SEC despite a

regular season loss to Florida.

Here is a little perspective: By beating the Gators twice in one season,

the Tide did in two months what took the Vols nearly a decade.

And they did it convincingly.

Spurrier, who has been called the Alexander the Great of offensive game

plans, was stumped by the Tide, as the Gators were held to 114 yards of

total offense, compared to the Tide's 462 total yards.

The Gators only rushed for 31 yards, compared with an even 300 for the

Tide. For those mathematically challenged like myself, I pulled out a

calculator and did some quick computations. Here is what I found: that's 10

times the rushing yardage.

Unlike the loss to Florida State, Spurrier couldn't complain about the

officiating afterward, so he admitted his incompetence instead.

And didn't that feel good to read.

A man Vol fans love to hate, finally admitting that maybe, just maybe, he

is not God's gift to play calling.

And for me personally, despite watching the Vols disassemble the Tide like

a weak Lego castle earlier this season, I have no trouble accepting them as

the best team in what may be the best conference in America.

So for now, or at least until bowl season, I guess I'll join in the fun of

trashing the Gators and even use the Southern accent I keep hidden in my

alter-ego and let out a roaring "Roll Tide!"