A gut punch from the South Carolina Gamecocks and a star starting running back voluntarily leaving the program with only four regular season games to go wreaks havoc on our weekly recalibrations.
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||Week 9||Week 10|
|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 (L; 49-10)||Kentucky|
|17||Florida||Georgia (W; 34-31)||Vanderbilt|
|21||Virginia Tech||Virginia Tech (W; 45-24)||South Carolina|
|24||Kentucky||Vanderbilt||South Carolina||South Carolina||Kentucky||Kentucky|
|25||Appalachian State (W; 20-13 (OT))||Missouri||Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt||South Carolina||Vanderbilt||South Carolina (L; 24-21)|
|28||Ohio||Ohio||Ohio (W; 28-19)|
|29||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech|
Recalibrating the Vols after South Carolina
What is there to say about the South Carolina game that hasn't already been said? The team was not ready to play. The team is likely just not as good as we thought. There was or is a problem behind the curtain.
I will add just one thing about the slow starts, mostly because the opportunity may have just passed due to the narrative being consumed by even more important matters. When the Florida and Georgia games sort of codified the talking point that Tennessee 2016 was a team that would get behind early only to mount a comeback to win, everyone and their mother started making the same joke everytime the Vols got behind: "Tennessee's got them right where they want them." The joke was then usually followed by the same warning: "It's going to bite them at some point." The reasoning for this, of course, was that teams are flirting with disaster if they think they can just turn it on and off at will. But that's not actually the problem with developing an identity of always having to come from behind to win. The problem is that you create a scenario in which you just never get the signal to turn it on anyway. At first, a team starts the game in the OFF position and then has an "Oh, crap" moment at some point, at which time they flip to ON. But the moment you start saying, "We've got them right where we want them," or "Don't worry, we've done this before," then you have just deprived yourself of the "Oh, crap" trigger you need to flip the switch to ON.
I should have said that three weeks ago, and I'm only saying it now for future reference, because starting slow now appears to be something other than a problem to be improved by tweaking a few things here. It instead appears to be a symptom of something potentially much worse. Maybe the South Carolina game was the ultimate "Oh, crap" moment that will finally duct tape the switch to the ON position. But maybe it's instead the best evidence of something really wrong. Maybe Jalen Hurd is Bryce Brown. Or maybe he's Justin Wilcox. We don't know, but time will tell.
This week, though, we Vols fans are left with just a giant shrug emoticon. What should we expect the rest of the season? Who knows? At a minimum, the uncertainty introduced into the equation (and the light it shined on issues probably already there but mostly unnoticed) has moved the needle considerably from an area of comfort to the edge of the precipice. Will the team recover, or will it fling itself off the ledge?
Recalibrating the Vols based on new results from past opponents
You may be as surprised as I was to learn that Vols still hold the top spot on the list of college football's toughest schedules even after playing South Carolina, which is now 4-4. So there's that. Woo.
Appalachian State (6-2, 4-0 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.
- W7: Beat LA-Lafayette 24-0.
- W8: Beat Idaho, 37-19.
- W9: Beat Georgia Southern, 34-10.
Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-1 ACC, #23)
- W1: Beat Liberty, 36-13.
- W2: Lost to Tennessee, 45-24.
- W3: Beat Boston College, 49-0.
- W4: Destroyed East Carolina, 54-17.
- W5: Bye.
- W6: Beat North Carolina, 34-3.
- W7: Lost to Syracuse, 31-17
- W8: Beat Miami, 37-16.
- W9: Beat Pitt, 39-36.
Ohio (6-3, 4-1 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.
- W7: Lost to E Michigan, 27-20.
- W8: Beat Kent State, 14-10.
- W9: Beat Toledo, 31-26.
Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC, #10)
- 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.
- W7: Beat Missouri, 40-14.
- W8: Bye.
- W9: Beat Georgia, 24-10.
10/1/16: Georgia (4-4, 2-4 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.
- W7: Lost to Vanderbilt, 17-16.
- W8: Bye.
- W9: Lost to Florida, 24-10.
10/8/16: Texas A&M (7-1, 4-1 SEC, #7)
- 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.
- W7: Bye.
- W8: Lost to Alabama, 33-14.
- W9: Beat New Mexico State, 52-10.
10/15/16: Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC, #1)
- W1: Clobbered #20 USC, 52-6.
- W2: Beat Western Kentucky, 38-10.
- W3: Beat #19 Ole Miss, 48-43.
- W4: Beat Kent State, 48-0.
- W5: Beat Kentucky, 34-6.
- W6: Beat #16 Arkansas, 49-30.
- W7: Clobbered #9 Tennessee, 49-10.
- W8: Beat #6 Texas A&M, 33-14.
- W9: Bye
10/29/16: South Carolina (4-4, 2-4 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.
- W7: Bye.
- W8: Beat UMass, 34-28.
- W9: Beat Tennessee, 24-21.
Recalibrating the Vols' future opponents
11/5/16: Tennessee Tech (3-5, 3-3 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.
- W7: Lost to E Illinois, 30-24.
- W8: Beat SE Missouri St., 21-20.
- W9: Bye.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): I'm even moving this game to 27 until I figure out what to expect from Tennessee.
|PREDICTIONS - TENNESSEE TECH|
11/12/16: Kentucky (5-3, 4-2 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.
- W7: Bye.
- W8: Beat Mississippi State, 40-38.
- W9: Beat Missouri, 35-21.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Sigh. This is what happens when your team has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Kentucky is second in the SEC East standings, and I don't know what the numbers and the bookies say, but with an inability to determine what Tennessee's going to do going forward, the game between the Vols and the Wildcats could very well be a shrug game at kickoff. 15. Yes, I said 15. Appreciate the significance of this move from a self-confessed tweaker.
|PREDICTIONS - KENTUCKY|
11/19/16: Missouri (2-6, 0-4 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.
- W7: Lost to #18 Florida, 40-14.
- W8: Lost to MTSU, 51-45.
- W9: Lost to Kentucky, 35-21.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): These guys still look terrible, but who wins between terrible and totally unpredictable? 19.
|PREDICTIONS - MISSOURI|
11/26/16: Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-3 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.
- W7: Beat Georgia, 17-16.
- W8: Beat Tennessee State, 35-17.
- W9: Bye.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): 17.
|PREDICTIONS - VANDERBILT|