The 2014 season of predicting college football has begun as the traditional 1st to the market magazine publication hit the racks in retail stores this week. I eagerly scarfed up my copy to get that initial football fix.
I must warn you, however, as a Tennessee fan, perusing this magazine will not lift your football spirits or make you feel included in the championship caliber portion of this upcoming season.
A few highlights from the publication:
· National team rank picks: Brace yourself; The Vols aren’t in the preseason top 25. They are picked nationally # 57 and # 11 in the conference. Last season this same publication chose the Vols # 54 and # 11, respectively.
· On a positive note: A.J. Johnson is selected to the first team All-America team as a linebacker along with Georgia’s Ramik Wilson.
· In the publication’s section ranking returning players within their playing position…….the Vols have no players listed under the positions of quarterback, running back, wide receivers, tight ends, centers, guards or tackles. Uh Oh. That’s the whole offense. Yikes. None. Nada.
· Returning defensive players ranked by position…….no Vols listed at defensive end, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback or safety. That leaves inside linebacker where we find the expected, A.J. Johnson. Otherwise none…..nada.
· And in those lean years where your best player is the punter or kicker…..not so for the Vols according to this publication.
· The Vols are listed dead last in the SEC when rating team units in Offensive line and Defensive line and next to last on special teams. Sounds so far as if we could lose every game 60-0.
· The anonymity trend is the same thru 2015 bowl projections/ team unit rankings on offense or defense. Shockingly we are not expected to play in the newly devised "Final Four" (or any bowl game for that matter) and to add to the misery, we apparently have no Heisman candidate this season.
· The Vols couldn’t even get a blurb on the "Coaching changes" or the "Hot seat" sections where we have been a mainstay for years.
· The Vols are not mentioned in any of the "Top" non-conference games for the 2014-2015 season or conference games for that matter. We are apparently insignificant.
· No Vols on the "projected 2015 NFL" draft list of 50 players. (Johnson was ranked 23rd LAST YEAR on this particular list)
· But the coup de grace………………………..NO Tennessee coeds included in the "Sidelines 2014" edition of cheerleaders/ flag bearers and dance team members. Vanderbilt for crying out loud made the list as did Florida, Mizzou, and of course Alabama. There is even a representative from game 1 opponent Utah State and then two (2) each from Clemson and TCU. Obvious bias here, though the TCU choices were not too shabby.
So… what did this publication say about the Vols?
· Tennessee is getting better.
· Butch is the guy….he can recruit and he gets in state talent. (Actually something that has been promised but never accomplished with regularity until recently.)
· 6-6. that’s the best record we can achieve. 6-6. Did I mention we are getting better?
What does all this mean?
Out of all the facts/numbers/ projections and predictions a publication will get something right or close to it. That’s the law of averages. But I have learned that nothing is usually as good or bad as expected.
Last year this same publication included Tennessee and players in the categories I listed above, and yet, I think we can agree that last season was not acceptable. Last year’s top projected NFL player from UT was listed 18 overall. That player was chosen 215th last week by the NFL. This is not a criticism of the Tennessee player or coaches, rather a point about predicting and making a list.
Point: If this publication chose UT # 54 overall last year with returning players they "knew", then choosing UT at # 57 this season with players they really don’t know that well just shows pre-season publications just choose what "they know"….not what really may occur.
It will be a tough year because the schedule mandates it. At # 3 Oklahoma and 2 home games against bowl winners from last year highlight the non-conference schedule.
The conference schedule has the usual list of evil creatures that carry preseason rankings of #2, #9, #12, #18, #25, and #40. Tennessee’s # 57 places them ahead of Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Arkansas State and 1-AA opponent, Chattanooga.
The New York Yankees had a great 2nd baseman and Hall of Famer named Anthony Michael "Tony" Lazzeri during the late 20’s and early 30’s. His nickname: "Poosh ‘Em up Tony".
In addition to brick by brick…….I say….."Poosh ‘Em up Butch".