Tennessee crushed a bad Ole Miss team in Neyland Stadium in 2010 by a final of 52-14 – giving the Vols their first win over an SEC West opponent since 2008.
Ever since that point, the SEC West has been on a dominant run both in the conference at large, but also against Tennessee specifically. And while UT hasn’t played particularly well against foes from the West, it’s also tough to fault UT for being unable to come up with a win since that point when you look at the teams Tennessee has faced, and when the Vols have faced them.
As Tennessee gets ready to face Texas A&M (5-0) this weekend, the Aggies are just the latest red-hot team from the West to find their way onto UT’s divisional rotation. Pair that with a yearly rivalry game against Alabama, and the success of UT’s opponents from the West has been downright staggering since 2011.
Lost to LSU 38-7 (6-0 coming into the game, 13-1 on the year)
Lost at Alabama 37-6 (7-0 coming into the game, 12-1 on the year)
Lost to Alabama: 44-13 (6-0 coming into the game, 13-1 on the year)
Lost at Mississippi State 41-31 (5-0 coming into the game, 8-5 on the year)
Lost at Alabama 45-10 (7-0 coming into the game, 11-2 on the year)
Lost to Auburn 55-20 (8-1 coming into the game, 12-2 on the year)
Lost to Alabama 34-20 (6-1 coming into the game, 12-2 on the year)
Lost at Ole Miss 34-3 (6-0 coming into the game, 9-4 on the year)
Lost at Alabama 19-14 (6-1 coming into the game, 14-1 on the year)
Lost to Arkansas 24-20 (1-3 coming into the game, 8-5 on the year)
at Texas A&M on Oct. 8: (5-0 record coming into the game)
vs. Alabama on Oct. 15: (5-0 heading into road game at Arkansas this week)
That adds up to a 122-24 cumulative total record for Tennessee’s Western opponents since 2011. But perhaps crazier is their record coming into the game against UT. Outside of an Arkansas team that stumbled out of the gates in 2015, but still found a way to beat the Vols, Tennessee has played the hottest teams. Those teams have come into the game against UT with a combined record of 63-6, with three of those six losses coming from Arkansas last year.
And while the Vols were noticeably more competitive in 2015, the West still holds a 371-144 total scoring edge against UT since 2011.
Tennessee’s taken great steps early in 2016 to take early control of the East. And while an Eastern Division crown would certainly be a nice step for this program, the Vols will ultimately have to have some success against the West for this team to go beyond that. And just as it’s been since 2011, they’ll have to go through the best and the hottest to make that a reality.