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Cocktail Thursday: Tennessee Edition

old fashioned

Is your team playing college football this weekend?

Is that game against a Tennessee squad that’s 2-0 and smells an upset?

Are you worried about a hangover following a convincing win over the Auburn Tigers?

In that case you could probably use a drink. I can help you with that.

With their win over Missouri and first year head coach Eli Drinkwitz on Saturday the Vols extended their win streak to eight games. It is the longest win streak in the nation among Power 5 teams.

And it means exactly jack diddly crap. Check out this murderer’s row of teams bested by the boys from Jeremy Pruitt’s School For Kids Who Don’t Know What Asparagus Is:

  • South Carolina (2019)
  • UAB (2019)
  • Kentucky (2019)
  • Missouri (2019)
  • Vanderbilt (2019)
  • Indiana (2019)
  • South Carolina (again)
  • Missouri (again)

There’s not a top 25 team amongst them. And only the UAB win was by more than 20 points. This is not a Tennessee team that’s been humming along, beating good football teams. It’s a Tennessee team helped back up from embarrassing losses to start the 2019 season by a run of scheduling luck that is hard to replicate in the SEC.

I recognize this move. As a Georgia fan I did it almost annually every season between 1997 and 2002. Win a series of early games against middling competition. Finally square up against a national title contender in the form of Tennessee or Florida. Get beat senseless and have my dreams crushed. Win a largely meaningless mid tier bowl game. Rinse. Repeat.

I want to be clear. Tennessee is a better football team now than they were when losing to Georgia State and BYU a little over a year ago. But there is a true gulf between being pretty good and being really good in the SEC. Georgia spent the better parts of the Donnan and Richt eras demonstrating that to painful effect.

Tennessee’s offensive line is in fact very good, but it is not very deep. And it will be going against a Georgia front seven that is arguably the deepest in the nation. But for a Jarrett Guarantano touchdown midway through the fourth quarter Tennessee would have won a 28-6 game over a fledgling Mizzou squad. Guarantano finished the day 14 of 23 passing for 190 yards, and was helped mightily by a rushing attack that churned out 232 yards on 51 attempts.

Given 51 rushing attempts I would be shocked to see the Vols put up 130 yards on the ground against this Bulldog defense. That means leaning on Guarantano, who hasn’t yet convinced me that he’s not still the same occasionally spastic interception machine he was in 2019. It’s like this: if the Vols average more than 3.8 yards per rush attempt and Guarantano throws fewer than 25 passes, the men from Creamsicle Country just might be in this one late, with a chance to capitalize on a UGA mistake to steal the biggest win of Jeremy Pruitt’s head coaching career. If they don’t run the ball superbly, and if they have to lean on Guarantano to lead a comeback through the air, the 12.5 points Georgia is giving up at the betting window won’t be close to enough.

When you’re looking to pull an upset against a team with good coaching and vastly superior roster you have precious little margin for error, and almost playing well enough to win doesn’t do it.

So what’s the perfect drink for watching fans of a Tennessee team that’s almost but not quite good enough to compete in the SEC feel exactly like I did watching the 1997 Georgia/Tennessee game?

Almost, but not quite, Classic Sangria. It’s not quite a classic Spanish Sangria. It’s pretty close to a fall brandy cocktail, but not quite. To make it you’ll need the following:

  • Two gala, pink lady or similar sweet apples
  • Two Granny Smith or similar tart apples (plus additional for garnish if desired)
  • Two oranges
  • Two lemons
  • One lime
  • one and a half cups simple syrup
  • a bottle of chilled white wine (sauvignon blanc would work well)
  • 4 ounces of Brandy
  • One cup Cointreau (an orange liqueur with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • One cinnamon stick

Start by peeling, coring, and thinly slicing the apples and oranges and juicing the lemons and lime. Combine all in a pitcher with the simple syrup and stir to mix. Add the wine, Brandy, Cointreau and cinnamon. Place in refrigerator for at least four hours but preferably at least eight.

Serve over ice, garnished with apple slices if desired. If you’re a Tennessee fan three of these may make you start believing you’re going to beat Florida and Alabama, too. Drink up, and . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!