Dear Mountaineer Nation: Don't Take the Bait in Charlotte
West Virginia has never played Tennessee.
Two storied and tradition-laden programs, yet they've never shared the same field.
In the modern era, Tennessee has won one national championship in 1998 and they have other championships from over 50 years ago.
But what has Tennessee done since then? Nothing.
That’s right, nothing. Zero Bowl Championship Series (BCS) wins and zero conference titles since 1998. West Virginia has three and six, respectively. The SEC is without question a more difficult conference to be successful in than what the Big East was in its prime. But that was then and this is now.
Tennessee has only won the SEC East (the weaker of the two divisions) three times in the past seven years. Tennessee is not even the best team in its own state. That's right, even against Vanderbilt in what is usually a one-sided affair, the Vols have lost two straight contests to the Commodores since 2015. In fact, Tennessee has a current losing-streak against every single program in their 14-team conference. There are multiple SEC teams that Tennessee has not beaten in over a decade. And speaking of the past decade, Tennessee has hired and fired more head coaches than its had winning seasons in the last 10 years.
Again, that was then and this is now.
Now, after a 4-8 season in which Tennessee didn't acquire a single conference win, the national media and pundits alike would have you believe Tennessee can and will upset the Mountaineers. West Virginia boasts a Heisman candidate quarterback in Will Grier and the Mountaineers have become a trendy pick to win the Big XII and make it to the College Football Playoff. Yet they're on upset alert?
Don't buy it.
What about Tennessee? They’re just trying to actually win a conference game this season at best. But let’s focus on the real issue here: the fans. Tennessee fans are the reason several coaches turned down the Tennessee athletic department to become their next coach, including North Carolina State's Dave Doeren, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy and Duke's David Cutcliffe. Maybe in a roundabout way, they truly found their guy in Jeremy Pruitt but their inability to conduct their coaching search in a professional manner made them the laughing stock of college football.
All the while, West Virginia fans learned all they need to know from the Tennessee fan base. Delusional is a popular word to describe them. There's no way West Virginia can beat Tennessee despite the Vols being a double-digit underdog. Their trophy cases are lined with titles and banners obtained from generations ago. Tennessee boasts a 100,000-seat stadium which did prove helpful when the Vols sneaked by Massachusetts by four points but it seemed meaningless when tasked with a conference opponent. And we can't leave out the Tennessee fans sending profanity-filled messages to the Twitter accounts of West Virginia football players.
The point is to not be intimidated by program clinging onto the successes it achieved ages ago.
I'll say it again, it's about the now.
And after West Virginia dismantles the hopes of every Volunteer, may we join arm-in-arm and bellow out "Country Roads" as we wave goodbye to the hoards of Tennessee fans exiting Bank of America Stadium.
See you in Charlotte! And Let's go, Mountaineers!