Tennessee vs Number One, Rinse, Repeat

Lady Vol softball went through Alabama 10-5 yesterday, opening the Women’s College World Series with a bang. Up next: the two-time defending national champs from Oklahoma, who boast an average 57-1 record this season.

The two met last season, with Oklahoma winning deep into extra innings. The Sooners carry all the rightful hype that comes with rings and records, plus the localized crowd in Oklahoma City. But Tennessee – both Lady Vol softball and the entire athletic department – is well versed in taking on number one at this point.

In the last two athletic years, Tennessee’s five major programs – football, men’s & women’s basketball, baseball & softball – have faced a team ranked number one 11 times; Oklahoma will make 12 tomorrow. In those 11 games (or weekend series in baseball), the Vols have wins over:

  • Alabama in football, number one in the coaches’ poll
  • Alabama in basketball, number one in the AP poll
  • One win in the series with LSU baseball this season
  • A sweep of Ole Miss in baseball last season

It’s a byproduct of Tennessee’s overall success that the Vols have been able to score victories over the best of the best. Oklahoma’s resume is probably the front-runner in terms of overall quality of opponent, though Georgia football and South Carolina women’s basketball would certainly be in that conversation these last two years.

But also, consider the absurdity of the fact that each of Tennessee’s 12 meetings with a number one team in these five sports over the last two years came against a current or future member of the SEC:

  • 2021 Football vs Georgia
  • 2022 Lady Vol Basketball vs South Carolina
  • 2022 Baseball vs Texas & Ole Miss
  • 2022 Softball vs Oklahoma
  • 2022 Football vs Alabama & Georgia
  • 2023 Basketball vs Alabama
  • 2023 Lady Vol Basketball vs South Carolina x2
  • 2023 Baseball vs LSU
  • 2023 Softball vs Oklahoma

That’s seven different SEC programs to reach number one in those sports in the last two years. Florida, who consistently boasts one of the most competitive athletic departments in the league, doesn’t appear on this list.

And, of course, we would add ourselves: just in the last calendar year, Tennessee reached number one in the college football playoff poll, number one in KenPom, and number one throughout last baseball season.

That’s pretty good.

And on such a pretty good list, maybe the most impressive feat of all could be accomplished tomorrow.

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