Austin Peay takes the field against Tennessee on Saturday, not that they really matter. Saturday's not about Austin Peay. it's about not the past three years or the past four years or the past fifteen years, depending on what your level of recent historical frustration peaks at. Saturday is about the future, what ideas we paint on to the bland schemes we see then and what we can reasonably hope for come the following Saturday and the rest of the season and 2014.
Because it sure as [Fulmer] ain't gonna be about anything Austin Peay plans on doing.
Make no mistake: Austin Peay is terrible. We'll give them some attention so it's not obvious we're writing them off. You ready? Here goes.
Austin Peay's been bad the last few years, and - in a hey-they're-just-like-us moment - they're also bringing in a new head coach in Kirby Cannon (name quality: B+). Rick Christophel hit a tailspin in his last three seasons: 2-9, 3-8, 2-9, including a 72-10 wrong-end-of-a-beatdown to Butch Jones to open the 2011 season, right before That Tyler Bray game. Cannon - I mean, I guess - gets some talent on the squad. Not that we'd know. Nor that we'd care. They'll make for a nice highlight reel, and hoo boy this paragraph is going to be ironic if we get App State'd, won't it?
Of course, the key difference is Appalachian State was good. Austin Peay is not. I just wanted to test your blood pressure. Gotta get your heart reps in.
The usual Week 1 caveats apply here: we ain't going to learn much. The offense will probably look bland but effective, the defense will actually look like a defense - we'll forgive you for getting excited about this - Justin Worley may look competent, and the kicking game may be solid and effective. You can trust the offensive line, and I'm pretty sure that you can trust the running game. Anything beyond that requires real data points against opponents that may have a pulse past the second quarter.
You want more detail? Again, don't get excited; There won't be any huge schematic insights on either side of the ball. Four down linemen on defense - with this team - is a good thing, but beyond that we won't see much beyond base schemes. You can probably learn something about what the pass coverage will look like, at least broadly.
On offense, we might see a little bit new compared to last year (what up, zone reads), but it'll generally be a slow-ish spread-type attack, the details of which are probably going to be a little different than last year, starting with the QB running a few times. The passing game will click, kind of, maybe, we hope. Pig Howard might do stuff and make us hope he'll be good. Everyone will stay healthy - everyone will stay healthy, right? - and we'll relax and enjoy ourselves. Some of us may woo at appropriate or inappropriate moments.
Again, this doesn't matter, at least not right now. It'll look clean, we hope, but spoiler: it probably won't, because you're rolling new skill positions and new coaches and sometimes you just need game-speed reps to really get a handle on things. That's fine, and quite frankly you'd rather the rust gets knocked off and Worley and company figure things out against an overmatched Peay squad than a Western Kentucky team that's at worst Sun Belt loaded with an actual coach.
You want to watch for something? Keep an eye out for that; clean play, It'll be a nice change, especially on defense. I'm less concerned about seeing a bunch of explosive plays and more making sure that whatever plays are called are executed properly. Do that and Austin Peay doesn't matter.
Not that Austin Peay's going to matter for most of us anyway. This is Tennessee Football, capital letters, Big Orange, Vol Walk, all the trimmings, and in somewhere between 0 to 58 hours from the time you read this post, it'll be back. We're almost here.