Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tennessee at a crossroad heading into the Georgia game

Mighty tough game at Georgia on Saturday
The first third of the regular season is complete, and the Tennessee Volunteers stand at 3-1. The team has one win against a pretty good team (North Carolina State) and two against lightweights (Georgia State and Akron).  The loss against Florida was a near miss. The Vols played well for two-and-a-half quarters before fading and losing big.

Basically, the Vols stand at where they were at this point in 2011. After four games last year, they were also 3-1. Again, they had beaten one pretty good team (Cincinnati) and two lightweights (Montana and Buffalo).  Their loss was also to Florida, and though the margin of loss was only 10 points, it really was not a close game.
Despite last year's promising start, it went south in a hurry as key players got injured and the team struggled to a 5-7 record. However, this year's team is better. The running game has improved somewhat as indicated by Rajon Neal’s 85-yard performance against the Gators. Florida is stout on defense, and last year, the Vols struggled to put up positive yardage on the ground against such foes.  Though only scoring 20 points against Florida, the Vols likely would have scored more if they had not panicked in the fourth quarter.
Additionally, the team has better depth. This year's freshmen would have seen significant action in the previous two years, but now are being brought along slower. Though we lack the talent of the top teams in the league, there can be no doubting we have gotten better in this department. That not only says a lot about the rest of the Southeastern Conference, but also about the state of the team when head coach Derek Dooley took over.
Now, Tennessee travels to Georgia to play the fifth-ranked team in the country. Only somebody looking through the loveliest pair of orange-colored glasses believes the team has a good chance to win.  A win is a long shot at best.  Right now, Tennessee is a 14-point underdog.  Georgia is probably the best team in the Eastern Division and rates only behind Alabama and LSU overall.
Back on August 5, I picked Tennessee to go 3-1 in its first four games and that happened.  I picked the Vols to go 1-3 in the second third of the season with its win coming at Mississippi State.  I must admit the Bulldogs are better than I anticipated and are ranked in the Top 25.  A win there looks a little shakier than when I predicted it back in August.
Still, the Vols must find a way to win one of the next four games. All four games are against ranked teams.  In addition to Georgia and Mississippi State, there are games against Alabama and South Carolina.  Only one of the games is at home.
If the Vols cannot break through, they will enter November with a 3-5 record, and a bowl berth will not be a sure thing.  Also, if we lose four in a row, the vultures will likely start circling Dooley.  I am not sure that is fair, but it will happen.
The Vols have the talent to break through.  But will they?

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