Robert Prezioso - Getty Images
This Calf Must Have Gone To El Mariachi
All through the first 2 1/2 quarters of Saturday night's heartbreaking meltdown against Florida, I was thinking in my head that we'd all get the opportunity to hear Bob Kesling botch his chance to call a monumental victory for the Tennessee Vols.
In my head, snapshots of fans hanging from the goal posts and the soundtrack of John Ward chanting, "Pandemonium Reigns!" after we beat Florida in 1998 was playing over and over. I let myself dream that Kesling would get the opportunity, even if it meant that he'd say something terrible like, "Taylor Bray and the Vols get a check mate between the Cheggarboards!!"
Alas, they played like poop in the second half, and it didn't happen. I'd have taken Kesling saying something dumb just to have the opportunity for him to say it.
Oh by the way, speaking of poop, as you guys who follow the column know, I went 2-4 two weeks ago. I was so disenfranchised with my performance that I decided I'd go out into the pasture and take a picture of a cow pile with a sign in the middle that said, "Brad's Week 2 Picks." This seemed like a good -- and funny -- idea at the time. But I had to work late last Thursday, so, Friday morning, I'm traipsing out through the dewy pasture that only had two calves in it.
I don't know if you live around cows -- [I live in Alabama, so I'm always around cows, even in Wal-Mart] -- but the little ones don't provide nearly the impressive piles as the big guys. So, I'm out there wading through the pasture, blue jeans soaked, trying to find any cow pile big enough to snap a picture of. Finally, I find a not-so-fresh patty that has coagulated a bit. So, I stick my homemade sign in and do my best Walter Iooss impression, snapping shots from every angle, with nobody but the cows watching. It was not a highlight of my life. Then, I had to go in and change clothes and was late to work. All for RTT. All for a poor attempt at humor.
Then, I talk to Joel, who wants me to wait and use the picture another week. Instead of driving to Johnson City to strangle him while yelling, "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'VE JUST GONE THROUGH!!!! ALL FOR POOP! ALL FOR NOTHING!!" So, even though I went 3-3 last week and am the picture of mediocrity, above is my masterpoop.
FIRST, A QUICK LOOK BACK
SHEP (Week 3: 3-3, Total: 9-9)
- Virginia Tech -10 over Pittsburgh. Poor Shep forgot the cardinal rule of (hypothetical) gambling: never bet on a team that can't score.
- Southern Cal -9 over Stanford. Guess it wasn't the jetlag against Syracuse.
- BYU -4 over Utah. This pick was way less solid than that pile of poo.
- UCLA -17 over Houston. I hope we all made a mental note that Houston is real bad at football. Good pick.
- Texas A&M -12.5 over SMU. The Aggies look like an SEC team.
- Alabama -20 over Arkansas. When in doubt, go with the juggernaut. Solid pick.
- Texas A&M -12.5 over SMU: SMU is bad at football. KidB got one thing right.
- BYU-4 over Utah: Perhaps I_S isn't an absolute moron after all. Utah wins outright.
- Northern Illinois-3 over Army: Northern Illinois wins by 1? By 1? Seriously guys?!?!
- USC-9 over Stanford: Poops. In. Bed.
- Mississippi State-16.5 over Troy: Apparently this one guy Troy is better at football than KidB thought. Either that, or MSU is appreciably worse.
- Florida+3 over Tennessee: KidB is so bad at gambling that he wins when he is trying to lose.
I_S (Week 3: 5-1, Total: 12-6)
- Penn State -7 over Navy: Navy is real real bad at football. I_S was indeed onto something.
- Texas A&M -12.5 over SMU: Sometimes the obvious play is the correct play.
- Ohio State -16.5 over Cal: The Cal Bears: road juggernautin' over underdog spreads since 1915.
- Oklahoma State/Louisiana over 73: I_S takes the no-fun approach and picks an over...and doesn't even get burned for it. I'm calling shenanigans.
- Notre Dame +6 over Michigan State: Way to follow the cardinal rule of (hypothetical) gambling and avoid betting on a team that can't score. Props on this pick.
- Utah +4 over BYU: Lucky bastage. Who uses the word "figgie" anyway?
ONTO THE LOCKS
- Louisiana Monroe +7.5 over Baylor. Baylor hasn't played anybody. The War Hawks have played two SEC teams, beaten one and took the other to overtime. I'm sold. That quarterback is gutsy. I still think the Bears post-RGIII are pretty decent, but I think La Monroe covers here. They may win outright. This is The Week Of The Underdog in my life. I never pick em. Today, I'm taking three.
- Notre Dame -5 over Michigan. I know that the Irish have a young quarterback who is taking his lumps, but that defense and rushing game has been pretty salty so far. And Everett Golston isn't doing a poor job in his first year starting, either. I'm not sold in the least on Michigan, who cannot play defense at all and barely beat Air Force after getting run out of Jerry's House by Bama. The Irish are battle-tested after last week's domination of Michigan State. I like them to cover this.
- LSU -20.5 over Auburn. LSU is warming up. The Tigers embarrassed Washington a couple weeks ago, and haven't really been tested yet this year. Auburn should be 0-3 and simply doesn't have the horses to hang with a team like the Bayou Bengals. There is some unrest brewing down here with coach Cheeze-it. It may boil over after this blowout loss.
- Florida -24 over Kentucky. Maybe I should recognize the Vols as paper champions, but I really think that the Gators grew up in Neyland last week. Jeff Driskel turned a corner, and UF really looked like the Florida of old in that second half. Meanwhile, Kentucky is putrid -- just awful. They will get dragged in this game.
- Kansas State +15 over Oklahoma. The more I think about this line, the more it scares me. Any time you see "Miami" on the schedule and you see what KState did to them, you think, "Man, this team is pretty good." But Miami is dreadful. That win may not mean anything. The Sooners drubbed the Wildcats last season, and this game is in Norman. Still, both these offenses are high-scoring, and the Sooners haven't proven they're world beaters. Two touchdowns is just too much in this case.
- La Tech +3 over Illinois. The Fightin' Dooleys score some crazy points. Illinois is a bottom-tier B1G team that was blown out of the water against Arizona State. They've got this one at home, but I think the Ghost of Ron Zook has still not totally left Memorial Stadium. The Bulldogs will head home to Ruston happy. Hopefully, I can get back over .500.
KIDB's "I think he might actually be TRYING to lose" PICKS
- Miami(OH)-24.5 over UMASS: UMASS is quite possibly the worst football team in the history of D-1/FBS. I mean, they're just atrocious. Methinks this will be the last time they are given fewer than 30 points.
- LSU-20.5 over Auburn: My basic rationale here is as follows: Auburn is just an abominably bad offensive team. If they score over 10 points, I'll be shocked and it will probably be the doing of a pick-6 or something. And I'm not banking on that happening. And I have no reason to believe that LSU can't put 30 points on the scoreboard. Do the math.
- Kansas State+15 over OKLAHOMA: Are y'all familiar with this fella that goes by the name of Collin Klein? If not, it surely won't be long until you are familiar. Quite familiar. Substantially familiar. Intimately familiar (if not in the biblical sort of way). Yes yes, the legend of Collin Klein will continue to grow and grow, just like my.....umm, er. Never mind. Let's just say you don't reach early retirement by handing the rich man's Dan Persa 14.5 points to work with as he sees fit. That's arguably just bad policy.
- Vanderbilt+16.5 over Georgia: this is a bit of a faint-hearted pick, and I won't be terribly distraught if it misses, but I just think that Vandy is better than what they've shown the last two weeks, and I think, in this game, they'll be the scrappy underdog that keeps things close on the road. Plus, Mark Richt has a terrible butt-cut, and I just can't trust a man with a butt-cut to cover a spread over two touchdowns, even if it is at home against an arguably bad team. Wait, is this really my pick? Am I trying on purpose to lose? Where is my mind?
- Arkansas-8.5 over Rutgers: This line started at Arkansas-2. If you ever need proof that Vegas is fallible, refer back to that opening line. It crawled all the way up to Arkansas-7 even before it was declared that Tyler Wilson would be playing. When word came out that he would play, the line jumped to 8.5. Now, I may or may not have gotten this line in real life at 7 -- and I hope that some of you hypothetically got it at an even better bargain than that -- but it was 8.5 by midnight last night and that's the standard we'v been using, so that's what I'm stuck with. It's still a solid play. Rutgers is in the Big East. Fact.
- Oregon-21.5 over Arizona: The Ducks burned me before when I picked them. Arizona burned me before when I picked against them. What have I learned? Nothing. I have apparently learned absolutely nothing.
- Wake Forest -7 over Army. Army is one of those teams that often doesn't show up on the road (see: two weeks ago). Wake Forest has a short line because they can't stop the run, and all Army does is run. So why is this a good pick? Wake Forest struggles against the run because they're small but disciplined and can't handle massive O-lines like Florida State's. Small but disciplined works great against Army.
- Utah +7 over Arizona State. I'm still not a total believer in Arizona State--I actually think Utah might be the better team. They're coming off an emotional win, but ASU is coming off a tight loss and a cross-country trip, so it evens out.
- Oregon State +7 over UCLA. It's possible that this was once 11.5, and that I have it there. But, while UCLA is improved, Mike Riley going on the road and doing crazy things is standard operating procedure (2011 excluded).
- Penn State -7 over Temple. I have no idea why this dropped from -9. Penn State keeps getting underrated, and I'll ride them a third straight week. Temple lost four starting O-linemen from last year, and have proceeded to beat Villanova and LOSE TO MARYLAND. Yet people think they're not terrible? Don't ask me why.
- Southern Cal -16.5 over Cal. I still believe Cal isn't a good road team, and maybe it'll lose me a game two weeks straight. If it does, so be it. But this is a mismatch.
- South Florida -9 over Ball State. This one scares me because it's on the road and a potential sandwich game, but the Bulls should be eager to prove that last week was an anomaly, and B.J. Daniels can usually rack up the numbers against overmatched opponents. Not a lot of great options for this last spot though. Also considered Florida, UConn, San Jose State, and Mizzou.
FIVE KEYS FOR TENNESSEE
- Avoid the Letdown. Oh, so you lost a big game last week? Guess what, it's called Every Week After The Florida Game Ever. It happens. The season isn't over. Get over the pity party and come out swinging. The Zips need to pay. Terry Bowden is their coach, after all, so we shouldn't have any problem feeling good while we're pounding them into submission. This is the typical sleepwalking opportunity, sandwiched between an emotional loss and a major road test at Georgia. We cannot allow that to happen. Akron is offensively dangerous ... sort of like a poor man's Louisiana Monroe.
- Prepare For The Perfect Playground To Test Young Cornerbacks. I commend Marsalis Teague for rebounding from an embarrassing junior season to be firmly in Tennessee's cornerbacks rotation. But the bottom line is he's not as fast as the two true freshman cornerbacks and sophomore corner on UT's roster. I'm not saying that Teague and senior Prentiss Waggner shouldn't play. Not at all. But Akron's pass-happy offense is the perfect opportunity to get more seasoning for Justin Coleman and the first-year duo of Daniel Gray and Deion Bonner. I believe it's a golden opportunity for a baptism by fire in a game that the Vols probably won't lose. We need those young, fast, talented DBs. Also, LaDarrell McNeil should play a good bit at safety. Now's the time to see who can help now.
- Practice Like You'll Play, Jim. I'm not selling Akron short, but like I said above, I don't think the Zips will beat the Vols ... just like I didn't think Georgia State could. But in that GSU game, it was like Jim Chaney wasn't even scripting the game like he would against a major opponent. It was almost like, "Well, we haven't run in a while, so let's do that." Chaney obviously struggles with play-calling and getting the right mixture when he's in a big game. He needs to practice in this game. Call it harsh, but it's what I believe.
- Initiation Time. The Vols will welcome back three players who should probably play important roles in the remainder of the season. First of all, we've heard how much coaches love redshirt freshman middle linebacker Christian Harris, and this should be the first time we get to see him in a Vols uniform. Then, there's all-world athlete Alton "Pig" Howard. Surely there's a Pig Package in the offense somewhere. Finally, we all know what sophomore tight end Brendan Downs can do. We need to get all of them integrated back into the gameplan and get their feet wet. Not only that, but Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson CANNOT play so much this week. Can we please see how good Jason Croom and Cody Blanc are? Thanks.
- Just Run The Football. I realize this could be a shootout and Akron could score some points. I also realize we're infinitely more talented than them. I'd love to see a game where we just imposed our will on a team and had a couple of 100-yard rushers. Heck, give Quenshaun Watson an extended look. I think this is a game that we likely won't lose, so let's go crazy and experiment a little. Let's try to dominate a game running. Maybe earn some confidence. The offensive line needs the bad taste out of its mouth.