In honor of the twelve days of Christmas, I am listing the 12 most important things that have to happen for team #118 to call 2014 a success.
A couple of things I need to go over before I start my list. First the list goes from least to greatest, therefore 12 is least important and 1 is the most important. Second, This is entirely my opinion, but I feel as if most of you all will agree with all twelve.
With that out of the way, let's begin the list.
12 Make the Alabama game competitive.
I Don't have to tell you all that the Alabama game has become very one-sided. In the past 4 years Alabama has beaten the vols by a score of 167-39. yikes.
It is important that Tennessee reverses the tide in 2014.
Yes, I know we are several years away from being on the same level as Alabama and yes I recognize that Alabama could spank us again and it would not have any impact on our goals for the 2014 season. So why is it important that Tennessee stays competitive against the Crimson Tide this year?
It is important to the fans' perception of Butch Jones' progress, the players' confidence, and recruiting.
All Tennessee fans expect Butch Jones to eventually produce teams capable of beating teams like Alabama. And they should, because we are Tennessee. So why not give fans a reason to believe he can produce such teams by keeping the Alabama game close by the 4th Quarter? Reasonable fans do not expect to beat Alabama next year, but keeping the game close can give the fans substantial confidence that Tennessee is making some progress in becoming an elite program again under Butch Jones.
The players need the game to be competitive. The players eventually need to recover from the mental illness called the Dooley disorder and expect to win every football game. Well the first step to believing you can win every game is to hang with a top tier team.
This is also extremely important to recruiting, as you know there will be a ton of top prospects present at the game. The Georgia and South Carolina games proved that Neyland Stadium can be one of the best college atmospheres in the country and you have to believe that Neyland would be rocking if the game is close in the 4th quarter for the first time in five years. Even if (or when) the vols lose, recruiting prospects would still be impressed with the atmosphere
Once again, this is the least important thing from my list because the vols could still get destroyed and still possibly call 2014 a success. I just think it is important for the fans and the direction of our program to keep the game closer than games in the past.
11. Win a Road Game Outside the State of Tennessee.
Once again, Tennessee could lose all four of the road games that don't include Vanderbilt and still possibly call 2014 a success. But It is really important, we find a way to win a big road game this year. Especially since Tennessee's last road win outside the states of Tennessee and Kentucky was in 2007 against Mississippi State. Even the road win against Ole Miss would be huge.
All the Great Tennessee teams won big road games. If Butch wants to return Tennessee to greatness, he better start finding a way to win a big road game next year.
10. Having a Healthy Curt Maggit
We all saw what a healthy Curt Maggit was capable of doing against NC State in 2012. Having him 100% healthy would definitely improve the defense and help Tennessee win a couple more games.
Also with the return of A.J Johnson and with 4-stars Dillon Bates and Kevin Mouhon joining the team, might I dare say that Tennessee could be deep in the linebacker position.
Curt Maggit being fully healthy would lead to him making plays himself, increasing the pass rush, and providing more depth to the line backer position, both important things that could influence the outcome of the season.
9. Jalen Hurd Getting off to a Fast Start.
Jalen Hurd could get off to a slow start and still have a great career and freshmen season at UT, but I think the teams needs him to get off to a fast start and prove to the SEC early that he is going to a superstar at UT.
I fully expect the quarterback situation to be something resembling a train wreck at the beginning of the 2014 season and having Jalen Hurd run through defenses could take some pressure off the quarterback (whoever he may be) at least for the start of the season.
Also there are very high expectations for Mr. Hurd to become the next Bo Jackson or at least as good as the running backs that play at Alabama under Saban. You have to realize that Jalen recognizes these high expectations and feels quite a bit of pressure to perform well. Fortunately, getting off to a great start would be tremendous for his confidence and psyche.
Also if he proves to be a superstar early in his career, we can have fun predicting how many Heismans he will win in his career.
8. Continuing to Recruit Well for 2015
I think one thing that helped us get through the later stretch of the 2013 season was the fact that Butch Jones was engineering one of the greatest recruiting classes in Tennessee football history.
I expect our loss record to be a little high again next year and knowing Butch Jones is assembling another solid recruiting class will help ease vol fans' pain.
The 2015 recruiting class does not have to be as great as the 2014 class, but good enough to give vol fans hope that the dark days are almost over and Tennessee is close to being restored to its former glory.
Also one great class will not change the direction of the program, it takes at least two or three.
7. The Offensive Line Maturing Quickly
Not much needs to be said for this one, we are replacing the entire offensive line. If they suck, Tennessee most likely sucks.
Yet the reason this isn't more important to me is because I think the offensive line can be average and we can still be successful.
Yet if the offensive line fails to pass block and open any holes, 2014 will be a long season.
6. Special Teams needs to be Special
We will probably be underdogs for at least half of our games. And a great way to pull of upsets is to be special on special teams.
I heard that Vic Wharton is great on special teams and I am excited to see what he can do next year. My main concern is replacing Michael Palardy. (Never thought I would say that before the 2013 season).
If his replacement fails to win field position battles and is incapable of kicking field goals outside of 40 yards, 2014 could get ugly. As a young and up and coming team, we need to win the field position battle the majority of the time, limit big punt returns from the opposing team, and get as many points on the board as possible. Having good special teams helps in all areas.
Also having a couple semi fluke special teams plays like in the Georgia game would be helpful too.
5. Beating Florida
I am calling the Florida game a must win for several reasons.
First, every time I rejoice at Florida's failures this season I can't help but feel but slightly annoyed that we can't even beat Florida with Will Muschamp as coach. I would hate to lose to Florida next year, see Muschamp get fired, and be the only school in the SEC not able to beat Florida with Muschamp as the coach.
Also I think every vol fan wants to be rivals with Alabama and Florida and not Vanderbilt. Beating Florida this year would go a long way in revitalizing the rivalry and setting the stage for future games when the stakes mean more and both teams don't suck.
Also This game is huge because it could give us momentum for the final stretch of the season. Tennessee most likely comes into the Florida game with a 2-2 record. A win against Florida improves the record to 3-2 with two winnable game against UTC and Ole Miss up next. Win both those games and the vols have a 5-2 record going into the Alabama game and needing only one win in the next five to go to a bowl game.
A win against the gators could get rid of the bad taste in vol fans mouths.
4. Good play from the Quarterback Position.
I am not even going to try to speculate who our starting quarterback will be at the start of the season. All I know is that it is really important that the quarterback is good. Having a good quarterback compared to having an average quarterback is the difference between an 8-4 and 6-6 season.
I am not asking for another Peyton Manning, but I am asking for another Casey Clausen or Erick Ainge.
I expect our running game to be good, if we have an above-average quarterback, we could have a decent offense.
3. The 2014 Class Matures quickly
This class expects to win championships at UT and cure the Dooley disorder that plagues some of our football players. They expect to win at UT. And while they won't most likely start winning big games until their junior and senior year, they are going to have a huge impact in the 2014 season.
With that being said, how fast they adjust to college football will influence the overall result of the 2014 season.
The faster they mature, the faster they figure out how to win games, the faster they figure out how to win games means they win games, and the more games they win, the better the season 2014 becomes.
I like watching winning teams, let us hope this team matures quickly.
2. Beat Vanderbilt
James Franklin is a great coach. After getting that obligatory sentence out of the way, let me say that this is the big must win of the season and not just because I am tired of seeing all those "back to back state champions" tweets on twitter.
If Tennessee wants to become a top ten program again, they can't continue to lose to Vanderbilt. Unless Vanderbilt becomes an annual top ten program, this new rivalry needs to evaporate as quick as possible.
I would much rather be rivals with Alabama and Florida and not with Vanderbilt. (Unless they prove to be a top ten team)
We need to beat them, I don't know how else to put it.
1. Go to a Bowl
If all else fails, we must win six games. If we don't win six games, 2014 will be another failed season.
And if some of you question whether six wins should be considered a success, I would say that the fact that we haven't been to a bowl since 2010 indicates that 6 wins is a successful season.
Going to a bowl is the most important goal for team #118 and they have a good chance at doing so if you want my opinion.
My Prediction: we do start 5-2 but come back to earth and finish 7-5.
Well what do you think of this list?