We set our sights on the future while half-heartedly going about this week's picks.
I'm already exhausted.
Maybe it has something to do with the pound of turkey I ate tonight -- Wednesday night -- at my parents' house, and we haven't even gotten to Thanksgiving yet. But my current groggy state doesn't have anything to do with the food I've eaten, the food I will eat or the fact that it's nearing midnight and I can't sleep yet again.
I'm tired of this coaching search. Some people may love them, and I can see that. The post-Phillip Fulmer search was exciting because there'd never really been a search in my lifetime. When it uncovered Lane Kiffin and his dream staff, the vast majority of us were very pleased. After a tumultuous season and a sudden exit by the Boy Blunder, however, the second search in as many seasons was nowhere near as fun.
Because of the late period when Kiffin departed, the state of the roster and an NCAA investigation beginning, nobody was interested. Looking back, we had to get "excited" for Troy Calhoun, David Cutcliffe, Will Muschamp, a then-unknown Kevin Sumlin. When the search quickly uncovered Derek Dooley, we all scrambled to learn everything we could about him, ultimately coming up with the, "Is this some joke?" response.
Dooley won us over with his charm and witticisms, but never his coaching. Now, after five abysmal seasons and our football program threatening to fall into an abyss of ineptitude, we are again searching. Everybody's hopes have fallen on Jon Gruden, but depending on what camp you listen to, those hopes are either far-fetched or unfounded. It seems nobody who normally knows things believe Gruden is very realistic.
Beyond that, there's the longshot of Bob Stoops. Then Jimbo Fisher. Then Charlie Strong. Then a list of people who are probably good coaches who probably won't unite the fanbase. It's unfortunately Gruden-or-bust right now in our fanbase, and all that's doing is setting us up for disappointment.
From my own standpoint, I'm hoping beyond hope that it's Gruden. I'm also excited beyond belief that it's not Dooley anymore, so I'm just curious to see what Dave Hart finds this time. I'm more than a little nervous that Texas has offered De'Vondre Campbell, four-star defensive tackle Ben Bradley has opened things back up, four-star safety Kameron Miles is now committed to Texas A&M and four-star defensive end Jason Carr is listening to Alabama and Ole Miss.
While I don't love our recruiting class, those are our best players in it. I'm of the opinion that we need to hire somebody as quickly as possible to start re-recruiting those kids and others. I'm also of the opinion that we can't rush it because we have to find the right coach -- whether his name rhymes with Lon Suden or not.
So, again, it's a tough predicament to be in, this coaching search business. Sure, it's exciting, in a sadistic sort of way. But it can also totally set your program back as we've all seen recently. I spend my days nervous and constantly checking message boards and newspapers, constantly calling and texting my friends who are in-the-know and just waiting on concrete news. When we finally hire somebody, it'll be that way with the hiring of his staff and then with the whirlwind last couple of months of recruiting.
It honestly just sucks, and I'm over it. We've been there, done that. And we're obviously not good at it. So, wake me up when it's over. Oh well, onto the Locks & Keys.
SHEP (Week 12: 5-1, Total 43-29)
KID B (Week 12: 2-4: Total: 36-36
THIS WEEK'S LOCKS
- Nebraska -15 over Iowa. This is a simply nightmare, Derek Dooley-esque season for the Hawkeyes. Early in the year, they hung their hat on defense, and they can't even do that anymore. The Huskers on the other hand are playing some good football, and I think this one is going to be a blowout. Pelini's blackshirts get it done.
- LSU -11 over Arkansas. Maybe I'm missing something, but Arkansas is horrible. I know that LSU isn't setting the world on fire offensively, but the Bayou Bengals will score an awful lot of points against the porous Hogs defense. This game is going to be ugly.
- West Virginia -2 over Iowa State. It's been a long time since I was confident on Dana Holgerson's boys. They were money early in the year, then they crushed me twice when I started laying big on them. But they've regained their offensive edge, and though they can't play a lick of defense, the Mountaineers will win this one simply because ISU hasn't proven they can hang with high-scoring offensive teams this year.
- Vanderbilt -11.5 over Wake Forest. I don't like James Franklin, but the man has proven a lot to me this year. He absolutely embarrassed Tennessee last week, and he has the Commodores on the brink of a historic season if they can finish off the Demon Deacons and win a bowl game. I don't think this will be that high-scoring, but I can see VU winning something like 27-10, though I won't be pulling for it to happen.
- Tulsa -5 over SMU. I don't really know a lot about this game, so I won't pretend to. But the Golden Hurricane has been very good ATS this year, and SMU can't play a lick of defense. Tulsa isn't the worst defensive team in the world and scores a lot of points. I don't care that this is a rivalry game. I don't think it'll be that close.
- San Diego State -7.5 over Wyoming. The Aztecs have won six straight after upsetting Boise State, and if they beat the Cowboys, they'll win the Mountain West Conference. I think they'll be up for this game, and Wyoming has been abysmal against good competition this year. SDSU won't have the perfect-weather advantage, but they have a better run game, and I think they'll win by double figures.
- Oregon-9.5 over Oregon State: I'm a firm believer in this Oregon team. They will bounce back from last week and roll as usual. Swoooosh!
- West Virginia -2 over Iowa State. I agree with Shep's logic as eloquently articulated above.
- Vanderbilt -11.5 over Wake Forest. I agree with Shep's logic as eloquently articulated above. And also I would like to point out that Wake Forest is simply atrocious at the game of football.
- San Diego State-7.5 over Wyoming: What is The Kid missing here? San Diego State is decent and Wyoming is quite bad.
- ULM-4 over FIU: ULM with Kolton Browning is realer than Real Deal Holyfield. What, did you want further analysis?
- Texas State-1.5 over UTSA: For those of you not familiar with the new FBS teams out of the state of Texas. Texas State is okay. UTSA is real real bad.
- Texas State -1.5 over UTSA. Do people know something I don't know, or is it just that nobody has any clue about Texas State and UTSA? Because I'm pretty sure Texas State would be favored by a touchdown or more on a neutral field.
- Arizona -2.5 over Arizona State. I've been a bit skeptical of ASU all year, and I'm on the RichRod bandwagon. Neither of those things change this week.
- Georgia/Georgia Tech over 63.5. I'm still not a complete believer in Georgia's defense. Tech should put up points. And I know for a fact that Georgia should score 40+. Their offense is legit, and Tech's D is terribad.
- Pitt/Rutgers under 43.5. This makes the third straight week I've gone under in Pitt games, but for good reason. Their offense isn't that great. And Rutgers' D is legit. Just don't go to overtime.
- Utah -23.5 over Colorado. Utah may not be that great this year, but Colorado is that bad. And there has to be some extra motivation after the ending of last season.
- Texas Tech +3 over Baylor. Classic overreaction to last week. Line would've been three points the other way before Baylor played the game of their lives and Texas Tech got beaten by a rapidly improving Oklahoma State bunch. Also considered Cincy, on the grounds that USF might've mailed it in.
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
- Audition For the Future. Any coach who is interested in being the new guy in Knoxville next year will be watching the on-field product. No longer encumbered by Derek Dooley, it's time for these players to prove to whoever is coming in that there is talent with which to work. Consider this an open audition, and it's time to put the past in the past and look ahead to a brighter future.
- Send Out the Seniors In Style. This will go down as one of the losingest senior classes in Tennessee history if not the losingest. But they've also dealt with their fair share of tumult in their careers as well. This also may as well be senior day for guys like Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, too, so hopefully those guys will end their UT career with a win.
- Payback On Our Mind. In case anybody forgot, the Wildcats beat Tennessee with a wide receiver at quarterback last season in a game totally mailed in by the Vols. That won't happen this year, mainly because this coaching staff already has proven that it will bench Tyler Bray if he isn't on target.
- Don't Forget About Running the Football. Jim Chaney is going to be the interim head coach here, so there is a possibility that we just decide to go four-verts on every play. Lord, I hope not. Lost in one of the worst seasons in Tennessee history is the fact that Marlin Lane is turning into a pretty solid SEC running back. Nothing flashy, but the man is gaining yards and finding gaps in the line. We need to run to be successful.
- One Last Long Look At CP. This is it, folks. He gone. So, hopefully, the training wheels will be off and Chaney will find ways to get the ball to his top play-maker. CP needs his hands on the ball at least 15 times in this game. If that happens, we'll win going away.