In recent years, Tennessee's season has followed the same gut-punch trajectory: A feast on a couple of mid-majors that raises optimism just high enough for hopes to be dashed when Florida or Oregon beats the Vols again.
This year, a lot of Tennessee fans had wised up at least a bit. Few saw a victory in Eugene against the Ducks in Butch Jones' first season. But you have to wonder if they saw what actually did happen, a 59-7 beatdown that showed how far the Vols have to go just to be a competitive team against the nation's elite, much less return to their ranks.
Marcus Mariota was 23-of-33 for 456 yards and four touchdowns, a jaw-dropping 225.77 passer efficiency rating. The Ducks churned out 216 yards on 41 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Oregon at one point scored 59 unanswered points, bookended by the two Tennessee touchdowns that made it 59-14.
Tennessee's offense wasn't terrible beyond belief, but it wasn't good either. The Vols passing offense still looks pretty woeful -- the quarterbacks combined for a 103.08 passer efficiency rating -- but the rushing game averaged a respectable 4.7 yards per carry. But that's the most Tennessee has to hang its hat on after this game, and it's frankly not much.
The turnaround in Knoxville is not going to be rapid, as pretty much everyone knew. This game simply confirmed it. So there's nothing really lost in this loss except a bit of the Vols pride; but there's also nothing that Tennessee really gained.