UT's 27-21 OT win tonight over Vandy got me thinking.....
Many college sports fans and media members have compared James Franklin's first year at the helm of the Vanderbilt football program to Bruce Pearl's first year as the trigger man for the Tennessee basketball program. On the surface, it's easy to see why. Both are high energy, positive minded individuals who helped their respective teams win more games than expected. However, there is a major difference between the opening stanzas produced by Franklin & Pearl. ("Franklin & Pearl", hmmm.... Sounds a bit like "Franklin & Bash".)
Pearl's first year coaching UT was the 2005-06' season, and the Vols were coming off a 14-17 campaign in Buzzball's final season in Knoxville. The Vols were superb in Pearl's first season finishing 22-8 and earning a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols were the SEC Eastern division champions going 12-4 in SEC play during the regular season. The Vols defeated teams they supposedly had no business beating that year such as #2 ranked Texas (at the time they played) in Austin by a score of 95-78. The Vols also won in Rupp Arena which is a very rare feat, and the Vols defeated the eventual National Champion Florida Gators not once but twice during the regular season. It's fair to say that Pearl had less talent to work with than many of the opposing coaches he was matching wits with, but he was able to win multiple games that he wasn't supposed to win. Of course he also won the games on the schedule that he was projected to win vs. opponents such as Murray State, ETSU, Lipscomb, etc.
In his first year on West End, Franklin has defeated the weaker teams on the schedule such as Elon, UConn and Army. He has also feasted on the bottom of the SEC by throttling both Ole Miss and Kentucky in blowout fashion. However, he has not defeated a superior (talent wise) opponent on the schedule nor put up a big win that is considered anything close to the big wins that Pearl put up in his first year. Alabama is a National Championship caliber team (much like the Gators of the hardwood in 05-06'), and the Dores lost to the Crimson Tide by a final count of 34-0. That is hardly Bruce Pearlesque.
Now before you start poking holes in this blog post, I realize that football and basketball are two totally different beasts. I also realize that five wins at Vanderbilt is a very respectable tally, and Franklin is doing solid work keeping the Dores competitive in games they eventually wind up losing. Just remember I am not the one who has compared Franklin to Pearl. Rather I am the one who is showing how this comparison is truly flawed when looked at through a results based lens instead of a black and gold lens.