Last week, we had a consensus of a low-scoring, two-or-three-score Tennessee win. That consensus was wrong. The Vols lost 24-21 in Columbia to South Carolina, and every staff member added a loss to their straight up record. Closest to the Pin goes to Will, whose 30-17 predication was sixteen points off the final margin but just two off the final total. This week, the Vols try to bounce back against the visiting Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, and the staff doesn't expect Tennessee's "A" game.
Incipient (6-2 straight up, 5-3 against the spread): I don't know much about Tennessee Tech, and I have no idea where Tennessee's mind is this week. I do know that Golden Eagles should be outmatched, but I really don't expect the Vols to be focused and put the pedal to the metal--after all, they haven't done so all year. Pure talent should push the margin high enough, but probably not as high as it was against last year's FCS cupcake. Tennessee 45 Tennessee Tech 14
Will (5-3 straight up, 5-3 against the spread): In a year of weird stats and stories, add to the list the fact that Tennessee's two largest margins of victory this season have come against the two best teams they've beat: 21 points over Virginia Tech, 10 points over Florida. This team is in desperate need of a beat down, and no matter what's going on over at the complex right now I'm not sure a 3-5 FCS team is going to offer much of a challenge to that this week. Tennessee 48 Tennessee Tech 10
Joel (6-2 straight up, 4-4 against the spread): Okay, so earlier this week I imagined Team 120 on the edge of a precipice. Would they turn things around, get it straightened out, and chart a course in a positive direction? Or would they slip up and plunge over the cliff? Y'all know me, I'm going to hug my optimism bias and choose the former. And yet, I can't quit thinking about the 2008 Wyoming game. Things had just come unglued, but Fulmer had been given the opportunity to ride off into the sunset, and the upcoming game against the hapless Cowboys would provide an excellent opportunity for all of those players standing defiantly by their coach's side at the press conference at which he was fired to further show him their support. But the mental challenge was too much, and the worst happened. And I haven't thought about it since I wrote that post game eight years ago, but Send in the Clowns may just be the most accidentally prescient thing I've ever written. The team could go off the rails this week, but my optimism bias says they won't. Tennessee 45 Tennessee Tech 10.
Chris (4-4 straight up, 3-5 against the spread): This season is playing out more and more like Bart vs. A Hamster. I bring that up specifically because of the cupcake experiment, where Tennessee will somehow manage to shock themselves 15 times before finally getting that dang cupcake. Tennessee 27 Tennessee Tech 13
Hunter (5-3 straight up, 2-6 against the spread): Butch Jones has steered the Tennessee football team into uncharted waters with an ugly loss to a Muschamp-coached South Carolina and burgeoning intra-team drama. In previous years, the Vols would have been a lock to try and make up for the loss by blowing out an overmatched opponent. Tennessee's 2015 team probably score 60 points and covers going away. However, as George W. said, "won't fool me again!" These Vols turn the ball over twice and look like a moderately better version of the same disjointed mess we've seen all season. Tennessee 28 Tennessee Tech 13
Volundore (6-2 straight up, 3-5 against the spread): It's probably good that the Vols have such a snooze-inducing opponent after a week of high stress and drama. We're going to win because Tennessee Tech is a mediocre FCS team, but the OL still looks iffy, we will play our 3rd and 4th string RBs, and nobody knows where this team is mentally. Tennessee 38 Tennessee Tech 10
Justin (6-2 straight up, 2-6 against the spread): Um...gosh...I don't know. I should forecast something like this: The Vols recommit to the ground game, even with a limited cast, doling out carries to Kelly, Fils-Aime, Byrd, and even Evan Berry. Tennessee Tech cannot stop an offensive line motivated to block and gets rolled for 500 rushing yards. Dobbs plays for one quarter, turning in a flawless performance, giving way to Dormady in the second quarter. From there the Texan gives Vols fans a preview of what the offense might look like in 2017, tossing 3 TD's. I'd love to forecast that, but I can't. Even though the game will not be close, most fans will be tuning in to CBS hoping for the Hogs to beat Florida and give the season one last shot in the arm. Happy Homecoming. Tennessee 35 Tennessee Tech 7
Trey (5-3 straight up, 3-5 against the spread): I'm not sure the South Carolina game exposed this team so much as confirmed them being exactly what they've looked like--a talented but iffily-coached and wildly inconsistent unit who are unshakably determined to play down to whoever they're matched up against. Frankly, the 21 points at VT is starting to look like the outlier; this being an FCS team I'll (again!) just go ahead and give Butch and company the benefit of the doubt (lol) on sheer talent differential alone and spot them the 21. That said- while more details about the Hurd/Kongbo/"player revolt" situation have come out and it's started to look like an isolated thing, I do think there's an outside (but non-negligible) chance the wheels are about to come off this bus--which would be an uncomfortably on-brand end to 2016. Tennessee 34 Tennessee Tech 13
Rocky Top Talk Staff Average (6-2 straight up, 3-5 against the spread): Tennessee 38 Tennessee Tech 11
Vegas: Tennessee -41.5. Over/under 65. Tennessee 53 Tennessee Tech 12