There was nowhere to run.
Now, there’s nowhere to hide.
The Tennessee Volunteers, who two weeks ago seemed like a team of destiny, could suddenly be destined for more frustration.
The Vols were throttled Saturday against Alabama, 49-10, going down for the 10th consecutive time against the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
It was the most lopsided margin in the series since 1906, when Alabama won 51-0.
Granted, plenty of teams — most teams — would get throttled by this Alabama team. But wasn’t it supposed to be different for Tennessee? Wasn’t this a potential championship season?
Instead, the injury-riddled Vols (5-2, 2-2) are no longer in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. Now they will need some help to win the SEC East and reach the program’s first league championship game since 2007.
Wouldn’t you know it? The Florida Gators (5-1, 3-1) are in the driver’s seat, but the race could come down to their rescheduled game on Nov. 19 at LSU. The Gators have a challenging finish, facing Georgia (in Jacksonville), then at Arkansas, South Carolina, at LSU and at Florida State.
Tennessee has the more friendly SEC schedule — at South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, at Vanderbilt — and should finish as a 10-2 team when you factor in a non-conference game against Tennessee Tech.
But it must perform.
Saturday was a non-performance.
The totals were enormous. Alabama had 594 total yards against just 163 (and 41 in the first half) for the Vols.
Alabama rushed for 438 yards, nearly getting a trio of 100-yard rushers (Jalen Hurts and Bo Scarbrough reached the 100-yard mark, while Damien Harris had 94).
Tennessee rushed for just 32 yards … on 32 carries.
The Vols have been living on the edge all season, rallying from double-digit margins in five of their six games. That included last week’s near-escape at Texas A&M, when the Vols erased a 21-point deficit and forced overtime, where the Aggies prevailed.
You never got the feeling that Tennessee was coming back against Alabama. Part of it was the Crimson Tide’s power. Alabama, going for its fifth national championship in the past eight seasons, has now won 19 straight games overall.
The Vols, who have dropped 13 straight decisions against SEC West foes, have a beaten-up offensive line, and it’s starting to wear on quarterback Joshua Dobbs and the Tennessee running game.
It’s no shame to lose at Texas A&M or to fall against Alabama, although it was the biggest margin in that rivalry in 110 years.
Now Tennessee, expecting to the turn the corner, needs some help. In order to take advantage of their riveting 38-28 win against the Gators on Sept. 24, when they rallied from a 21-3 deficit, they need Florida to be beaten.
By somebody. Anybody. Or else this season will be one of failed expectations.
If the Gators falter and Tennessee prevails to win the SEC East, the Vols will finally get back to Atlanta for a big-time reward.
Likely another meeting with Alabama.
Nowhere to run.
Nowhere to hide.