Thursday, September 10, 2009

Volunteers will beat UCLA to avenge last year's disaster

If a person wanted to pinpoint where Tennessee's season starting going wrong last year, all he would have to do is revisit the opening game loss at UCLA. Despite effectively establishing the running game, the Vols insisted on throwing the ball too much. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who was only making his second career start, wound up throwing 41 passes as Tennessee lost 27-24 in overtime.

It is highly unlikely Crompton will throw that much this week as UCLA visits Neyland Stadium. The only way this will happen is if the Volunteers fall way behind and have to make a big comeback.

As we learned in last week's win against Western Kentucky, Tennessee is committed to running the ball and has the horses in the backfield to do it. Montario Hardesty looked the best he has ever looked, and Bryce Brown showed flashes of what he might become. Those two combined for 271 yards rushing by themselves.

True, Western Kentucky is a struggling team, and fans should not get too pumped up over a thrashing of a small program. Still, the Vols effort and intensity were pleasing. And it was great to seek Crompton throw five touchdowns and have a smile on his face while doing it.

As for UCLA, the Bruins opened with a 33-14 win against San Diego State. They fell behind early 14-3 before rallying. Quarterback Kevin Prince passed for 176 yards and a touchdown. Ironically, he is the quarterback Tennessee would have faced last year if he had not blown out his knee.

Though Tennessee's 63-7 win last week has generated a lot of excitement, a little perspective is needed. Throughout the first quarter against Western Kentucky, the Vols' offense looked similar to the 2008 team. A fumble, a muffed punt, and a tipped pass that was intercepted highlighted a frustrating quarter. An eight-touchdown win overshadows mistakes like that, but the team showed it is still capable of inconsistency.

Because of this, don't fall into the trap of believing Tennessee has come further than it really has. The Volunteers will win this week, but it will be rough going.

The pick: Tennessee 24 UCLA 20

Other SEC picks: Georgia over South Carolina, Auburn over Mississippi State, LSU over Vanderbilt, Alabama over Florida International, Florida over Troy

Last week: 11-0 (1.000)

1 comment:

Chris said...

UCLA 19 Tennessee 15. Last Thursday I wrote: "...don't fall into the trap of believing Tennessee has come further than it really has."

That may have been the most prophetic statement I have written in the 2.5 years of this blog. I attended the game, and the offense's performance showed that the Western Kentucky game was a mirage. At this time, we aren't much better than last year on offense. Fortunately, we still have plenty of time to improve. Unfortunately, we play at Florida this week.