The Idiot Optimist's Guide to the 2012 Season

Again, many thanks to Trey for the graphic.

Third time's the charm. Dool-Aid's still fresh, and it tastes like bamboo.

Look, I know what happened last year. We all do. But we also know that 2010 was Year Zero, which makes 2011 Year One, which makes 2012 Year Two. And everybody knows, Year Two = guaranteed success. You don't believe in Derek Dooley? That's okay, because I'm pretty sure me and you and six of your friends from the message board could coach this team to a championship.

Do you realize that this could be the most talented QB/WR combo to ever play at an institution that calls Peyton Manning an alum and itself Wide Receiver U? Do you know that Tennessee has never had a quarterback and two wide receivers chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft? That's about to change, because Bray, Rogers, and Hunter are going 1-2-3 in April in whatever order you like. These guys are a three note chord, in perfect harmony with each other. Everything that happened last year to disrupt that harmony is only going to make you appreciate it more when you hear it every Saturday this fall. How many school records will these guys break? All of them.

Bray averages almost 300 yards per start (294.1 to be exact). That's 4,000 yards, easy. He just got arrested for excessive hot dogging, which has done the impossible and made me even more excited about this season. Because you want the quarterback that takes it easy on jet skis and loses at chicken.

Justin Hunter averages 22 yards per catch and a touchdown on every third reception. And I didn't see it, but Twitter and VolQuest and 247 and VolNation and Bleacher Report and my cousin said he beat Eric Berry for a touchdown in a closed workout. Anyone who beats Eric Berry is some kind of mythical creature. And oh yeah, Da'Rick Rogers just turned in a 1,000 yard season with no bowl, no run game, no help, and three quarterbacks. Don't hate. Don't doubt.

So when we trot out the nation's best junior college player and a senior tight end with 40 career catches, we're just showing off. And when we signed the nation's best class of wide receivers last February, we're letting you know that this year is just the beginning. How many yards will we throw for this season? As many as we want, son. Cause ain't nobody - including and especially Bammers - that can stop us.

You're still worried about the run game? We got Jay Graham, son! You know, the guy that played with Peyton, so he knows exactly what to tell these kids about making the most of their opportunities when you've got a legend at quarterback. It's completely and totally rational to assume that Graham's hire will instantly cure all of our issues in the ground game.

But if you're not sold, how 'bout an offensive line that's one of the most experienced in the country, and that doesn't even include Tiny Richardson? Tyler Bray's backside, frontside, and allsides are safe. I've been doing a little dance every day that Harry Hiestand's been gone, and I know I'm not the only one.

Basically, we're going to throw until we're bored or Bray's arm gets tired, and then we're going to have Jay Graham close his eyes, turn around a few times, and then point at someone. Marlin Lane? Rajion Neal? Devrin Young? Freshman to be named later? Doesn't matter, because whoever Graham bestows his blessing upon, they get the yards once the defense is exhausted from chasing down our uncatchable receivers. So you know, we'll probably throw for 500 in three quarters and then run for 200 in the fourth. That's like 70 points per game. Maybe 60 against SEC defenses, because they deserve our respect.

What about the defense, you ask?

Let's get one thing straight right away: if you think being the defensive coordinator at Washington is better than being the defensive coordinator at Tennessee, you are clearly too stupid to be the defensive coordinator at Tennessee. So we're going to be much better right away just because we have someone who understands, you know, college football.

And the fact that this someone was on the defense that kept the other team from crossing midfield in the National Championship game last year? Bonus.

I mean really, we don't even need a defense when we're scoring 70 points per game. But because we're scoring 70 points per game, we can just blitz like nine guys on every play. Or blitz none, because we've got a 6'6" 377 nose tackle who may just eat the quarterback, literally. Because he's hungry, see, because he's actually lost weight. I'd say Daniel McCullers needs to be the first guy off the bus, but I'm worried we may have to bus him in separately.

He also wears #98, which automatically makes him the next John Henderson. 98 is also the year we won the National Championship, which is worth at least five TFLs. He's pretty much my favorite player, and if Bray or Hunter get jealous at least I'm not worried about them seeking me out and breaking me in half. Though Bray might hit me in the face with a golf ball, which would hurt.

I don't know though, man. Herman Lathers might be my favorite player. He's going to be everybody's favorite player by the end of the season, because if he can beat cancer and blood disorders and broken ankles and playing at this university the last four years, he can beat Georgia and Alabama. He's the senior leader we need, the first and last piece of the puzzle. Plus it doesn't hurt to have Freshman All-Americans next to you. Big Herm is going to show them how it's done this year, and then they're going to split the Butkus Award in 2013. People want to talk about being back? We're back at linebacker, son.

We've also got like fourteen defensive backs, and we only need four. Math, boom. I think Prentiss Waggner and Eric Gordon are in some sort of contest to see who can return the most interceptions for touchdowns. I also know LaDarrell McNeil was the highest rated recruit we signed and he might not even get on the field right away. Surely, surely, we can find four out of fourteen. Surely.

You want to talk special teams? Do you think this team is kicking field goals or punting? We can discuss the mechanics of extra points, if you'd like.

The schedule? Nevermind NC State, the Georgia Dome is the real threat. But, I found a loophole! Because our football team is unbeaten in the Georgia Dome on Fridays! (Checks calendar, sees Clemson loss in Peach Bowl was on a Friday) unbeaten in the Georgia Dome on Fridays in the regular season! And Derek Dooley is massively successful there. I respect the Georgia Dome more than three-fourths of our schedule, so let's just say Tennessee wins "comfortably" and walk away quickly.

Unless Da'Rick Rogers changes his mind about transferring to Georgia State, that's no problem. Then it's the Gators, about whom I say this: Tennessee has struggled the last few years for obvious reasons. Florida has struggled the last few years for no reason. I also think Coach Dooley actually has a better fist pump than Coach Boom, which is worth at least a touchdown. Remember last year when we almost beat them on the road with no Justin Hunter and Bray picking up every third snap off the ground? And let me point this out again: Will Muschamp turned down the Tennessee job twice. Twice! He must pay. And he will. Tennessee's last two wins over Florida in Knoxville? Night games. Bring it on.

Then it's Terry Bowden, who has beaten every SEC team not named Tennessee. I'd go in depth on Georgia, but I'm worried they may have less than 22 scholarship players by September 29. And then we go to Starkville, which I'm told now does in fact have a McDonald's but may or may not actually have a football team.

This is the part where I'm supposed to talk about respecting Alabama, but I think that's been made clear by the fact that our defensive coordinator and athletic director are former Bammers. Dave "Hitman" Hart, he knows the mind of Saban. And Sunseri knows every weakness of an offense that is used to getting by thanks to its defense. And I mean, Bama's defense will probably hold us to 40 or so. But since all they do is kick field goals in big games, we've got this. Once again, I just hope they don't let us down and show up for the rematch in Atlanta.

South Carolina? Should've beaten them the last two years in games started by Matt Simms and Justin Worley. Troy? Overrated movie. Missouri? New guys never win their first year in Neyland Stadium unless the head coach is coming back from open heart surgery. Vanderbilt is an automatic win, and until they prove otherwise that will be the extent of my analysis.

And we all know we threw the Kentucky game last year, right? One, because Dooley is a mastermind that knew we had to hit rock bottom to win it all this year. And two, it was all a ploy to convince a university that has no problem cashing checks from John Calipari's face on a bottle of Maker's Mark that we should put the Beer Barrel back in play. You don't think we really lost to a team playing wide receiver at quarterback that hadn't beaten us in 27 years, do you? Bray had a fever, and the only prescription was humility.

Anyway, once we mercy rule Kentucky that's 12-0, easy. Cured of the curse on August 31, we'll have no problem in the Georgia Dome in the SEC Championship Game, whether that's Alabama or Chavis. And then Bray will come in second in the Heisman Trophy to Matt Barkley...which is fine, because it'll be a nice story when we dominate USC in the National Championship Game.

14-0, National Champions. Because the guy who pulled us out of the ditch deserves to be the guy who takes us all the way. We're all getting orange pants for Christmas. Boom.

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