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Recalibrating expectations for the Vols after Texas A&M

Turnovers can no longer obscure the fact that Tennessee is a really good team.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. Welcome to your weekly recalibration of expectations for the Vols, wherein we try to explain how we feel even better about the team after a loss without using the supreme four-letter word in the sports blogosphere: moral victory. Yeah, it's not four letters, but it's also not a dirty word.

Explanations are below, but here's the updated chart for this week:

5-30 SCALE Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7
6 Alabama Alabama Alabama
8 Alabama
9 Alabama
10 Georgia
11 Alabama
12 Georgia
13 Texas A&M Texas A&M
14 Georgia Florida (W; 38-28) Texas A&M
15 Texas A&M Texas A&M Georgia Texas A&M (L; 45-38 2OT) Alabama
17 Florida Georgia (W; 34-31)
18 Florida
19 Missouri Missouri Missouri
20 South Carolina Florida
21 Virginia Tech Virginia Tech (W; 45-24) South Carolina
22 Kentucky Missouri
23 South Carolina Missouri Vanderbilt Kentucky Vanderbilt Missouri
24 Kentucky Vanderbilt South Carolina South Carolina Kentucky Kentucky
25 Appalachian State (W; 20-13 (OT)) Missouri Vanderbilt Vanderbilt South Carolina Vanderbilt
26 Vanderbilt Kentucky Kentucky South Carolina
28 Ohio Ohio Ohio (W; 28-19)
29 Tennessee Tech Tennessee Tech Tennessee Tech Tennessee Tech Tennessee Tech Tennessee Tech Tennessee Tech

Recalibrating the Vols after Texas A&M

Okay, so the narrative on the Vols that had developed through last week was that the team was lucky. Lucky to escape App State. Lucky to benefit from multiple turnovers by the Hokies in the Battle at Bristol. Lucky to come back against Florida. Lucky to hit the Hail Mary against Georgia. Almost lost in all of that noise, however, was the fact that Tennessee was also a very good team. I say "almost" because Will was doing everything he could to redirect the narrative, and the College Gameday crew actually hit on all of Will's points during one segment of the show last Saturday. But still, to most of the world, the Vols were just lucky.

So when Tennessee came up just short in double overtime against A&M, the lazy storyline was that the Vols' luck had run out. It did, in a way. Turnovers that you need two hands to count. Penalties, the same. Injuries, ditto. If there was any luck in attendance at Kyle Field, it was wearing a black cape and wielding a scythe.

And yet.

The Vols took an excellent team to double overtime on the road despite it all. The offense stepped up. The defense stepped up. The third string, stepped up. And the world took notice.

But even if the world is still oblivious, we know. We're fans of a really good team.

So based on all of that, I'm moving the bunch of teams that we already felt good about down another slot. And I'm moving this week's game against Alabama into the slot we just had A&M. It's Take 2, and we're at home. Let's roll the dice again and see what happens. Just hold on to the ball this time.

Recalibrating the Vols based on new results from past opponents

Most the Vols' past opponents made the Vols look good again this week. Most, I say, because Florida didn't play, you know.

Appalachian State (3-2, 1-0 Sun Belt, NR)

  • W1: Lost to Tennessee in OT, 20-13.
  • W2: Beat Old Dominion, 31-7.
  • W3: Lost to #25 Miami, 45-10.
  • W4: Beat Akron, 45-38.
  • W5: Beat Georgia State, 17-3.
  • W6: Bye.

Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC, #25)

Three straight blowouts for the Hokies after the Battle at Bristol are making the Vols look good. If these guys get past Miami, they could cruise through the rest of the ACC - Atlantic and give whichever team represents the ACC-Coastal trouble in the ACC Championship Game.

Ohio (4-2, 2-0 MAC, NR)

  • W1: Lost in 3OT to Texas State, 56-54.
  • W2: Beat Kansas, 37-21.
  • W3: Lost to Tennessee, 28-19.
  • W4: Beat Gardner-Webb, 37-21.
  • W5: Ohio (not Miami) beat Miami (Ohio), 17-7. :-)
  • W6: Beat Bowling Green, 30-24.
The Bobcats continue to look good, having lost only to Tennessee and in triple overtime.

Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC, #18)

  • W1: Beat UMass, 24-7.
  • W2: Trounced Kentucky, 45-7.
  • W3: Beat North Texas, 32-0.
  • W4: Lost to Tennessee, 38-28.
  • W5: Beat Vanderbilt, 13-6.
  • W6: Postponed their game with LSU.

10/1/16: Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC)

  • W1: Beat North Carolina, 33-24.
  • W2: Barely beat Nicholls, 26-24.
  • W3: Came back late to squeak out a win against Missouri, 28-27.
  • W4: Lost to Ole Miss 45-14.
  • W5: Lost to Tennessee, 34-31.
  • W6: Beat South Carolina, 28-14.

10/8/16: Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0 SEC, #8)

  • W1: Beat #16 UCLA in OT, 31-24.
  • W2: Beat Prairie View A&M, 67-0.
  • W3: Beat Auburn, 29-16.
  • W4: Beat Arkansas, 45-24.
  • W5: Beat South Carolina, 24-13.
  • W6: Beat Tennessee, 45-38 in double overtime.

The fact that the Vols and Aggies went to double overtime despite Tennessee's seven turnovers (six in regulation) either means the Vols are better than this loss suggests or that the Aggies are not as good as the win suggests. I'm going with the former.

Recalibrating the Vols' future opponents

10/15/16: Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC, #1)

  • W1: Clobbered #20 USC, 52-6.
  • W2: Beat Western Kentucky, 38-10.
  • W3: Beat Ole Miss, 48-43.
  • W4: Beat Kent State, 48-0.
  • W5: Beat Kentucky, 34-6.
  • W6: Beat Arkansas, 49-30.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): These guys looked as good as ever. They force turnovers (gulp), their defense scores touchdowns on a regular basis, and their offense is humming. They did nothing this week to make me change my mind about how good they are, but with what the Vols just did against A&M despite a crateful of turnovers, I'm putting them on the same line we had the Aggies and hoping for a different result. And I don't think that's uncalled for at all. 15.

W1 W2 W3


W5 W6 W7
11 6 6 6 8 9 15

10/29/16: South Carolina (2-4, 1-4 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Beat Vanderbilt, 13-10.
  • W2: Lost to Mississippi State, 27-14.
  • W3: Survived East Carolina, 20-15.
  • W4: Lost to Kentucky, 17-10.
  • W5: Lost to Texas A&M, 24-13.
  • W6: Lost to Georgia, 28-14.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Didn't look particularly good against Georgia, either. Down to 26 and still at the bottom of the Pack of Four.

W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6 W7
23 23 24 21 24 25 26

11/5/16: Tennessee Tech (2-4, 2-2 OVC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to Wofford, 21-7.
  • W2: Beat Austin Peay, 41-7.
  • W3: Lost to Mercer, 34-27.
  • W4: Lost to UT Martin, 44-23.
  • W5: Beat Eastern Kentucky, 33-30 in OT.
  • W6: Lost to Jacksonville State, 40-21.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): No change.

W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6 W7
29 29 29 29 29 29 29

11/12/16: Kentucky (3-3, 2-2 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Collapsed and lost to Southern Miss, 44-35.
  • W2: Lost to Florida, 45-7.
  • W3: Beat New Mexico State, 62-42.
  • W4: Beat South Carolina, 17-10.
  • W5: Lost to Alabama, 34-6.
  • W6: Beat Vanderbilt, 20-13.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Based on what the Vols did this week, I'm moving the entire bunch of teams made up of Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina down a peg, and based on this game, I'm swapping the positions of Kentucky and Vanderbilt. That means that Kentucky actually stays in the same spot just due to overcrowding. 24.

W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6 W7
24 26 27 22 23 24 24

11/19/16: Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to West Virginia, 26-11.
  • W2: Beat Eastern Michigan, 61-21.
  • W3: Lost to Georgia, 28-27.
  • W4: Beat Delaware State, 79-0.
  • W5: Lost to LSU, 42-7.
  • W6: Bye.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Missouri is at the top of the Pack of Four, but I've moved the whole group down a rung, so the Tigers are at 23.

W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6 W7
19 25 23 19 19 22 23

11/26/16: Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to South Carolina, 13-10.
  • W2: Beat MTSU, 47-24.
  • W3: Lost to Georgia Tech, 38-7.
  • W4: Beat Western Kentucky, 31-30 in overtime.
  • W5: Lost to Florida, 13-6.
  • W6: Lost to Kentucky, 20-13.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): See the Kentucky discussion. 25.

W1 W2 W3 W4 W5 W6 W7
26 24 25 23 25 23 25