Monday, October 11, 2010

Tennessee an appropriate 2-4 as first half of season ends

Entering the season, most people understood that the Tennessee Volunteers would have an uneven season based on its youth and lack of depth. Six games into the season, the Vols have been the walking definition of 'inconsistent' and have a 2-4 record.

Saturday's loss at Georgia was another example of this. After coming within one play of upsetting LSU the previous week, Tennessee laid a huge egg against the Bulldogs. The Vols barely had a pulse in losing 41-14. I hate to write this, but at times, the team played like it had no heart whatsoever. It was reminiscent of their performance in the second half of the Oregon game only this time it lasted the whole game.

The Volunteers have reached the middle of their schedule, and mercifully, have this Saturday off. If nothing else, the break will let the team rest. The Volunteers have to find some way to get better in order to qualify for a bowl.

Actually, that is a stretch. Tennessee does not look close to being a bowl team at this point so maybe the goal should be lower. Tennessee is one of only two major football programs to have never lost eight games in a season (Ohio State is the other). Maybe the focus should be on winning three of the remaining six games to keep that fact alive.

The next game is against Alabama. The Tide showed that they were mortal by losing to South Carolina. Can Tennessee beat them? I doubt it. In fact, the most drama on October 23 will be seeing how many Tennessee fans sold their tickets to Alabama fans. In 2008, it was disgraceful to see how many Tide fans found their way into Neyland Stadium.

Consider this a personal plea: Tennessee fans, please do not sell your tickets to Alabama fans if you are not attending the game. The team deserves more than to walk on the field and see 25,000 'Bama fans there. If necessary, take less money and sell your tickets to a Tennessee fan who has never seen the Volunteers play Alabama in person. Do the right thing.

The game following Alabama is a road trip to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are soaring after beating Alabama, and they will likely be a double-digit favorite to beat Tennessee. A loss here drops the Vols to 2-6.

Entering November, Tennessee has to find a way to win three out of four. The schedule lightens so it is doable, but will the Vols find the consistency to do it? The November games are at Memphis, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Kentucky, and at Vanderbilt. Of the four, the Kentucky game looks the most challenging. The Wildcats took Auburn down to the final play before losing on Saturday. They have not beaten Tennessee since 1984, and this could be the year they break their losing streak. If they do not beat us this year, then they never will.

Ole Miss is inconsistent. Will they play like the team that lost to Jacksonville State or the team that bounced Kentucky? Memphis is bad so a win looks probable there. Vanderbilt is about even with Tennessee when it comes to talent, but in recent years, Tennessee has played better in Nashville against the Commodores than it Knoxville.

The bottom line is that it will not be easy to get to five wins. It can be done, but the Vols have to turn it up a notch.

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