100 Days of Vols #11 - The Blank Slate

Because sometimes this happens. - Mike Zarrilli

Hope lives here.

The season starts in less than two weeks. Joel is dusting off his article on anticipation, and it's about time for Will to be talking himself into 14-0. We're all looking forward to football, and along with the excitement of seeing the game at Tennessee for the first time in nine months, there's the added excitement contained in the mystery that comes from the beginning of every season: just what big scalps will Tennessee collect this year?

Being able to talk ourselves into championships, for most of us, has fallen sadly by the wayside in the last few years. The last time I could convince myself in preseason that Tennessee had an SEC title team was 2005. But, even after the aimless wanderings of the last eight years, there's still a blank slate, chock full of opportunity. Even if we can't talk ourselves into championships, we can talk ourselves into big wins. Tiny can take Clowney, Florida's offense is a disaster, Georgia's defense is a disaster, and there you go, all three of the most intimidating divisional foes are beatable. Yeah, they have more talent than us, but it's not like lack of talent in 2009 stopped us from going toe-to-toe with the champions on the road.

It's part and parcel with the beginning of every new season in every sport. The opportunity to exceed expectations, to do something special. There are no blemishes on the record, and every game presents a chance for achievement. It's easy to talk yourself into this being the year. Now what you mean by "the year" depends on a lot of external factors. If you're one of the blue bloods, it's the year you win a national title. If you're near the bottom of the barrel, it may be the year you make a bowl game. For Tennessee, the best we can talk ourselves into, depending on how hopeful we are, may just be 2013 being the year that sparks a turnaround. But whatever our goal, with the first day of the season approaching, it's still on the table.

We've talked about and will continue to talk about a lot of exciting things about Tennessee. The excitement of the new players being brought in and the rising stars in camp, the excitement of Knoxville on game day, the crowd, the orange. But one of the most exciting things is the opportunity. You can go to a game as a 40-point underdog and still have that hope nestled in the back of your mind that maybe, just maybe, this day you are Appalachian State. Or that this day you are Stanford.

Hope is hard to kill. One of the biggest indictments of the last few years is that the hope went away. Watching Tennessee football became a chore, not an excitement. But this year, the hope is back. The blank slate is back. The opportunities are back. Football is coming.

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