Dusting off one of my favorite memes from last year: the Friday predictions. Also, borrowing a stroke of brilliance from the guys at Roll Bama Roll, the The Bocephus Album Cover Worry Index for the Vols ranks a strong The Pressure Is On this week:
An aside -- my reason for not doing the Friday predictions this year stems from last season's Arkansas game for which I made very foolish predictions and called for Tennessee to win despite having looked at the statistical matchups and seeing that the Vols had virtually no chance of victory. I had let blind homerism override logic and it made me uncomfortable, so I've shied away from this in '07... until now.
The difference is that this week, more than ever, I feel we need a strong infusion of homerism, and logic be damned.
So, ignoring the facts that UT's defense is ranked toward the bottom of the SEC in nearly every rush and pass defense category, and that the Vols' run game has been horrid this year, and that UGa features one of the best punt returners in the league while Tennessee's punt coverage has looked like, well, Tennessee's punt coverage... presenting the Friday predictions.
1. Georgia gets zero punt return yards Saturday -- And the insanity begins. This prediction is not based on any ill-conceived notion that UT's punt coverage will be so improved that UGa's Mikey Henderson won't have room to run, but rather the hope that Britton Colquitt will be smart enough to keep the ball far, far away from Henderson. I personally know of more than a dozen people -- myself included -- who have vowed they'll "lose it" if Georgia returns a kick for a TD, and after the DeSean Jackson and Brandon James fiascoes, I hope Colquitt has learned. Kick it out of bounds, straight out of bounds if necessary, but don't let Henderson field the ball.
2. LaMarcus Coker gains over 150 total yards -- I remarked to some friends before the Ark St. game that I'd lfor the Vols to be more creative with guys like Coker and Creer, specifically that I'd like to see the coaches put Coker in the slot and see what he can do. The first time they did it, Coker caught a 27 yard pass and might have scored if he didn't trip over himself. I'm not claiming a stroke of brilliance on my part, in fact, the opposite. It's the obvious thing to do: put your playmakers in position to make plays. Tennessee has guys with dynamic abilities, and they have got to come up big for the offense to really be effective. Coker is the right guy to start with.
3. Jonathan Hefney plays like Jonathan Hefney -- This one is a little hard to quantify, but I think we all know what it means. We've been waiting all year for Hefney to play like the All-American candidate he was hyped to be in the preseason... but for some reason, be it pressure, trying too hard to compensate for the young players around him, damage to the part of his brain where "tackling" was stored, whatever, Hef just hasn't been himself this year (or even what most people would call "good"). Tennessee needs Hefney to be good this week. That doesn't mean he has to do everything, it just means he needs to play his responsibilities and tackle people like he did all last year. Not looking like a Tennessee fainting goat on punt returns would be a bonus, too.
If those things happen, well, I'll probably quit my day job and move to Vegas. But if anything resembling those points happens -- solid special teams, a few big plays, and solid defensive play for the leaders on that side of the ball -- and Tennessee could be one of the teams in the driver's seat of the SEC East on Sunday morning.
So I'm calling for a Vols win, 34-31. Probably unrealistic and homeristic, but there it is. Look for a review of these predictions Sunday or Monday.