From the 1989 through 2004 football seasons, Tennessee never missed qualifying for a bowl game.
It wasn't always a New Year's Day bowl. Nor was it always a desirable bowl.
Remember when the Capital One Bowl was a disappointment? Or when back-to-back Chick-fil-A bowls were almost insulting?
Maybe that's why the bowl streak didn't receive much attention at that time. It was too commonplace to be noteworthy.
Now, as college football season plunges into the heart of bowl season, the old streak has a newfound luster for a program that has missed out on bowls in consecutive years.
Once taken for granted, a bowl — and the six required victories that go with it — has become the goal for UT football. And the goal will be a challenge for coach Butch Jones' first Tennessee team in 2013.
Built-in optimism invariably accompanies a coaching change. Maybe the system will better complement the returning personnel. Maybe he and his staff will motivate a player or group of players that the previous staff couldn't.
You can weigh that against the significant losses from a team that was already undermanned in the SEC.
Few teams in college football will lose as much
of their offense. Quarterback Tyler Bray; wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter and Zach Rogers; tight end Mychael Rivera: all gone.
What's left? A good offensive line, several productive players from the middle of the defensive front and questions everywhere else.
One of the biggest questions will be at quarterback.
Quarterback transitions always are important. This one is more crucial than usual.
In better days, Tennessee had sufficient overall talent to make the transition so much easier for a new quarterback. Not now.
Tennessee's next quarterback — be it Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman — will have an experienced offensive line in his favor. But the running backs are not exceptional by SEC standards, there are no established receivers and there's a new offense to learn.
The supporting cast won't allow for a struggling quarterback. The Vols just went 5-7 with Bray, who — despite his track record for faltering when a game was hanging in the balance — at least gave them a big-time passer.
Perhaps the loss of offensive talent can be offset by a resourcefulness recent Tennessee teams have lacked. Maybe Jones' Vols will find ways to make plays against comparable competition that will turn games their way.
If not, UT's latest bowl streak will continue next year.