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Ranking the Volunteers' 2007 games: from Hate! to Who?

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I swear on Neyland's grave that this post was 95% finished before Inside Tennessee's Jimmy Hyams had almost the same idea. Anyway . . .

What sounded like a fine idea last spring got tabled and tabled and tabled, and all of a sudden, here it is almost two weeks to kick off. So the past is hereby jettisoned in favor of the present. Until it sounds like a good idea again next spring. Translated: no more 2006 recaps until after this season.

So, what then? Previews! But who? And when, especially in light of the fact that they must be written by a certain chronically behind blogger? Answer: prioritize! Hate first. Indifference last.

Your task: help us prioritize the Volunteers' 2007 games from Hate, Hate, Hate! to Um, Who? My first stab, and my, aren't we using a lot of colons this morning:

  1. Florida. The ultimate goal of any season is to win a national championship. If you're in the SEC, though, or another major conference, you'd better set your sites on winning your conference. Do that, and the national picture will work itself out. To win the SEC, Tennessee must first win the SEC East, and to do that, well . . . Florida. And then . . .

  2. Georgia. In recent history, the SEC East has been about Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee, so those are the most important games. Of course . . .

  3. Steve Spurrier recently defected to South Carolina, and El Diablo has always been a thorn in our flesh. Word is, he's satisfied with his team (if not with his university), and he's starting to sound cocky again. Not a good sign. This year, the race for the SEC East will be between four, not three teams, with both Kentucky and Vanderbilt legitimate threats to add one to the loss column of any of the true contenders.

  4. Alabama. To win the East, though, you have to have the best SEC record of any team in the East, including games played against West opponents. You could go with Arkansas in this slot, as they may be a bigger threat than 'Bama this year, but . . . rival!

  5. Arkansas. See No. 4.The Razorbacks are the only team that really beat us badly last year. (I've repressed the memory of the Outback Bowl against Penn State, so I can't say with any certainty whether the Nittany Lions merely beat us or beat us badly.) Anyway, Darren McFadden and the Wildcat package are back, and with questions still not quite answered at defensive line for the Vols, mmm, that's not a good sign, either.

  6. Kentucky. Ha! No, really. See No. 3. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it wasn't all Randy Sanders' fault. In fact, he's doing an excellent job with highly esteemed Andre Woodson. If Kentucky proves to have a decent defense, they'll be downright threatening.

  7. Vanderbilt. Earl Bennett. Chris Nickson. 2005. They're capable, folks.

  8. Mississippi State. Hmm. Not so much.

  9. Cal. Wow. What are you doing all the way down here? Sorry, but you Bears really don't mean that much to the Volunteers in the grand scheme of 2007. Sure, the opening game may set the tone for the rest of the Vols' season, but a loss may in fact motivate the team to a better SEC record, which matters most. Still like to win, though, huh?

  10. Southern Miss. They're (you know, them) talking like this is a very dangerous game for the Vols. The Eagles are apparently favorites to win Conference USA. You know, over the likes of Memphis, et al. It's definitely a sandwich game for the Vols. With Florida on one end, it's looking like a cheese sandwich. But with the bread on the inside. Which makes it something other than a sandwich. And with no-cheese-connotation Cal on the other side. Um. So . . . let's call it a trap game.

  11. Arkansas State. An out of conference who?

  12. Louisiana-Lafayette. What he said.

So what do y'all think? Lots of room there in the middle for argument. So let's have it.