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‘Ball Hell Broke Loose: Tennessee leads the college football chaos in Week 7

Anarchy in Knoxville and what it means for the Buckeyes.

Alabama v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images
Jami Jurich Jami Jurich puts her Ohio State journalism degree to good use, working as professional copywriter by day, SB Nation contributor by night.

Though the Buckeyes didn’t play this week, there was plenty of chaos for us to feast on across the NCAA.

In the case of No. 20 Utah, we saw a great upset win over (formerly) No. 7 USC, whose defense decided they were on vacation. Michigan had a dominant win over No. 10 Penn State, proving that the Buckeyes and our nemesis are once again the big dogs in the Big Ten.

But no chaos remotely compared to what went down in Knoxville, Tennessee yesterday, where what we saw wasn’t chaos – it was complete anarchy. We’re not even going to bother rounding up the rest of the NCAA’s child’s play when the Volunteers delivered the second-best gift OSU fans could get on a Bye Week — a Bama loss (the first would be a Michigan loss, duh).

It was the kind of game that people will rewatch on ESPN Classics in 10 years. It was the stuff college football dreams are made of. And though it didn’t involve the Buckeyes or the Big Ten in any way, it still has indirect ramifications for us.

The Third Saturday in October is to Knoxville what the Last Week of the Regular Season is to Columbus and Ann Arbor, but as Michigan fans could tell you – rivalries aren’t quite as fun when they’re lopsided. (Yes, I know Michigan won last year – we have to throw them a bone once in awhile).

Yesterday, for the first time in 15 years, the Vols went into the game with a fighting chance against a No. 1 Alabama team whose coach had never lost to Tennessee. Alabama’s star quarterback Bryce Young (last year’s Heisman winner) decided to grace us all with his presence after a few weeks out from an injury.

What was possible was yet another Alabama blowout, the likes of which we’ve seen time and time again in the last decade and a half. But this Tennessee team is the real deal, so what we got was a full 60 minutes of football.

And thanks to Young’s return, there’s no asterisk next to Tennessee’s win, no one saying “If only we’d had our quarterback.” No, this win was sweat, blood, and tears, and the Vols earned every bit of it. The game went back and forth quite a bit, with Tennessee pulling ahead to a 21-7 lead early, Alabama taking the lead, Tennessee taking it back. Alabama’s defense was sleepy at best, sloppy at worst. Their special teams unit made a MAJOR error that resulted in a Tennessee touchdown. Alabama had a record number of flags. But still, it all boiled down to a Tennessee field goal kick with 0:01 on the game clock, and it would be the kick heard round the world.

Nothing brings me quite as much joy as a cranky Nick Saban (ok, MAYBE a crying Clayton Kershaw). And yesterday, while the Buckeyes had their much-deserved nap time, Tennessee delivered as much for us (and any other fan base who collectively hates the Crimson Tide) as for themselves and their own loyal fans.

Cigar smoke filled Neyland Stadium (Tennessee is a tobacco-free campus, but something tells me no one was going to be disrespectful enough to enforce that yesterday). And then down came the goal posts.

This, my friends, is the sweet chaos I desire at all times where college football is concerned. Do you know how hard it is to have hope when your team lets you down and causes you physical and emotional pain year after year? I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, so I sure do. Tennessee fans deserved a night of anarchy (which, compared to couch-burning and car-flipping, which I do not advise, was still relatively harmless).

As fans stormed the field at Neyland after their last-second win, the goal post came down. Fans rode it like a bull and then paraded it through the streets, taking it for a whirl at the bars before finally, finally drowning it – along with years of sorrow – in the Tennessee River, where it will now live permanently.

But what does it all mean for the Buckeyes? Alabama dropped out of the No. 1 spot, but they still control their own destiny in the SEC. Tennessee, on the other hand, has to face the now-No. 1 Georgia team in 3 weeks for a shot at a rematch with Bama in the SEC championship.

OSU still has to play the Wolverines, so nothing is set in stone, but assuming we win out, this little three-way battle for the top spot in the SEC does have playoff ramifications for us. On one hand, Georgia is the least-scary team of the three to me, so I’d love to face them in the playoffs. On the other, my heart wants Tennessee fans to have a moment of glory (and Lord knows the playoffs need some fresh blood).

But the real question that came out of yesterday for the Buckeyes is what this means for CJ Stroud and his shot at the Heisman. Until yesterday, he seemed like a sure thing if he continues on the track he’s been on. But Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker might be known as Hendon Heisman come the end of this season after his performance yesterday. If he manages to pull off something comparable against Georgia in three weeks, Stroud’s Heisman hopes might be in trouble.

Now listen, I’m thrilled for the Vols (my brother graduated last spring and was in Knoxville for the game yesterday. One of my oldest, dearest friends is a lifelong Vols fan who grew up in Tennessee). I wept at the end because I knew what it meant to every single person who puts on their orange jersey and sings “Rocky Top” every week. Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – would bring me more joy than a Tennessee-OSU playoff showdown.

But I do need them to back off of our man CJ. Hendon Hooker is a spectacular quarterback, and he certainly deserves to be in New York, but this is one of those cases where the Heisman committee are simps for the SEC, and as a Buckeye fan who would lie in traffic for CJ Stroud, that is where I draw the line.

So may chaos reign, may both goalposts and sorrows drown, may Rocky Top always be home sweet home to those who like that sort of thing. But with all the love in my heart and just a bit of vaguely threatening energy, get your man Hendon to back up off my man CJ, or I might make some chaos of my own!