Carolina wasted a quarter giving the ball to Vandy, which couldn't score as usual. After that, it was an ugly first SEC game. This is why nearly everyone opens with MAC State or the old WAC U.
South Carolina isn't that good. They cannot throw the ball. Sure, Conner Shaw is tough. And, Lattimore had flashes of his old-self as the best player on the field. But they cannot throw the football. One dimensional in the SEC will eventually get you killed. USC looks a lot better with Conner Shaw, the running back and leader, than without him. True of most starters and backups but Shaw won that game. Last night, South Carolina didn't look like a top 10 team. They won ugly. They looked very beatable. Vols beatable.
Vandy isn't all that good either. Normally, that needs no explanation. Their defense delivered big hits and they played with Franklin's swagger. But there were open USC receivers - if only Conner were Bray. And, while they have team speed for a change, Vandy still looks undersized upfront. They struggled against strong zone blocking and the big run push.
If the Vols have a run game this year, they should be able to choose whether to run or pass against Vandy. Not with impunity. But Bray and the guys should be able to outscore Vandy's offense.
Speaking of which, Vandy has a couple of decent backs - slashers. But they aren't enough to consistently move the ball and control the clock. Their QB hit some seam routes and made some spunky plays, but the encouraging thing to watch as a Vol fan - no big play receivers. (Well, other than the slant on which the Vandy guy simply outran the USC secondary who had no angle on him because the USC defender, who thought he was picking off the ball, blew an arm tackle. Other than that.) Largely just possession type players. So the Vols win streak in this series feels good.
Yes, it was the first game of the season. It's a long season in which both teams will get better.
But I feel encouraged.
Let's hope that we still feel that way after tonight.