Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tennessee Volunteers football likely to go 8-4 in 2012

The Power 'T'

There is a lot of optimism surrounding the University of Tennessee's football team as it begins practice, and it is refreshing to hear. After all, if a team cannot be optimistic in August, then the season will likely be a death march without success. So, at least for now, heads are being held high in the land of Tennessee football.
Even though I am trying to be optimistic, I cannot help but think about the state of Volunteer football the last time I saw it.  Who can forget?  It was last November as the team lost to Kentucky for the first time since 1984.  It was an improbable and sickening loss that cost the Volunteers a bowl berth.
Nine months later, we look forward. There are many things to like about the team.  It has a ton of experience.  The coaching staff has done a good job upgrading the depth of talent.  Plus, the schedule is more accommodating compared to last year.  I have been thinking long and hard about how this season will shake out.  I am doing my best not to be overly optimistic and stay as realistic as possible.
When reviewing the schedule, I feel like it can be divided into three chapters that include four games each.  The first four games could provide the springboard to a lot of happiness.  The second four games include the meat of the schedule.  The final four games could provide momentum for postseason play.
Chapter 1:  Aug. 31 vs. North Carolina State (in Atlanta), Sept. 8 vs. Georgia State, Sept. 15 vs. Florida, and Sept. 22 vs. Akron.
Obviously, the two games against Georgia State and Akron are guaranteed wins.  If they are not, then this season will be a disaster of historic proportions.  This leaves the North Carolina State and Florida games as key swing tilts when it comes to having a successful season.  Both are winnable, but like I wrote earlier, I will not let my optimism get the best of me.
North Carolina State is a solid team, but if Tennessee's head is screwed on straight, we should win. I hope it does not come down to a last-second kick because I have zero confidence in our special teams right now. Despite this, I am picking us to win. Unfortunately, I do not see us beating Florida.  Admittedly, they are coming off their worst season in more than 20 years, but they have more talent.  This means Tennessee will exit this portion of the schedule with a 3-1 record.
Chapter 2:  Sept. 29 at Georgia, Oct. 13 at Mississippi State, Oct. 20 vs. Alabama, and Oct. 27 at South Carolina.
Three of the four games in this chapter are on the road, which is bad news for a team that has not had a big SEC road win in years.  Georgia will win the SEC Eastern Division again this year because they have a ton of talent and do not play LSU, Alabama, or Arkansas again.  Who makes their schedule?  They will be too much for Tennessee, but the Vols should play them much closer than we did down there in 2010.
After that Tennessee has a bye week before a trip to Mississippi State.  I am a big believer in bye weeks once October starts.  Much will be riding on this game as the heat will be on Derek Dooley to get his biggest SEC road win to this point.  The Bulldogs have a history of dealing Tennessee crushing blows (remember 1986 and 1994?), but we should be ready for them.  This win ups the record to 4-2.
Alabama visits Knoxville the following week. Though Alabama will win, this will be an interesting measuring stick game for the Vols. The last two years the Tide has beaten Tennessee by a combined score of 78-16.  We will not win, but it is time to start closing the gap.
After that we visit South Carolina. Too much talent for the Gamecocks plus it is on their field.  We end this chapter of the season with a 4-4 record.
Chapter 3:  Nov. 3 vs. Troy, Nov. 10 vs. Missouri, Nov. 17 at Vanderbilt, and Nov. 24 vs. Kentucky.
Well, if you read the headline, then you know I am picking Tennessee to win all four.  The win against Troy is automatic.  The Missouri game will be interesting because of the newness of it.  It is hard to believe we have never played them before, but since it is at home, we will win.  Vanderbilt's James Franklin is doing good things building their program, but I see a Big Orange win.  Finally, if there is one game I am going to attend in person, it is the Kentucky game.  I want this one bad.
So, we will go 8-4.  Many have quoted '8' as the magic number for Derek Dooley to keep his job.  I do not know about magic numbers, but I believe he has done a pretty good job cleaning up the mess he was given.
But that is one man's opinion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After last year I don't know what to expect. And what's up with Tyler Bray? He's gotta get his head together.