Tennessee’s game against North Texas on Saturday shouldn’t be much of a contest. The Vols are a 42-point favorite and the gap between college football’s elite and the wannabes has never been wider.
Tennessee’s athletic budget is over $107 million. North Texas’ athletic budget is just shy of $32 million. Tennessee coach Butch Jones will make $3.6 million this year. Former North Texas coach Dan McCamey, who was fired in October, was slated to make $720,000. By comparison, Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek, who is the highest paid coach on Tennessee’s staff, will make $515,000 in 2015.
According to 247Sports.com’s team rankings, the Vols had the No. 3 signing class in the nation in February. North Texas’ is ranked 95th.
However, the balance of power wasn’t always so one-sided. There was a time when much smaller schools could compete with the big-name college football powerhouses. North Texas proved as much 40 years ago.
Led by a 46-year-old Hayden Fry, the Mean Green rolled into Neyland Stadium amped to beat the Vols. Tennessee should have known it’d be in for a challenge. North Texas proved itself a worthy opponent the previous week when it lost a close game to Mississippi State, 15-12.
Tennessee, however, was a step up from the Bulldogs. The Vols had been ranked No. 10 in the nation before a loss to Alabama dropped them out of the AP Top 25.
Tennessee great Stanley Morgan scored first, giving the Vols a 7-0 lead. The two teams exchanged scores before former Vol quarterback Randy Wallace completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Murphy to tie the game, 14-14.
Then disaster struck for the Vols. Mean Green running back Sears Woods returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, giving North Texas the eventual winning score of 21-14.
The Vols gained 139 more yards than North Texas and had 11 more first downs in the game. None of that really matter as Tennessee suffered one of the most memorable upsets in its history.
Now, 40 years later, the Vols have a chance to exact revenge. And North Texas has a chance for another all-time great win against Tennessee.