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Recalibrating expectations for the Vols after the Battle at Bristol

Two games in, how do we feel about the rest of the Vols’ season now?

Virginia Tech v Tennessee Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

With Week Two in the books, how do we now feel about the Vols' chances the rest of the way? Georgia drops below Texas A&M, Florida gets a small bump, and the misfits of Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky all jockey for position at the back of the pack.

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

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

Recalibrating the Vols after the Battle at Bristol

Tennessee looked absolutely terrible throughout the first quarter of the game against Virginia Tech, and they needed a fortunate fumble on the right side of the field and an angry fourth-string quarterback to find themselves, but find themselves, they did. After a few possessions, the defense kicked in (like it did last week; will this be a theme?) and then made things mostly difficult for the Hokies. The offensive numbers -- particularly the score -- are tempered a bit by the numerous fumbles that the opponent kept giving to the Vols, but 45 points sure feels better than 20 in overtime. To me, Tennessee isn't yet up to the level it was at its peak last season, but it is making progress, and I am still optimistic that they're going to get there and beyond. The only question is when and whether it will be in time.

Recalibrating the Vols based on new results from past opponents

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

  • W1: Lost to Tennessee in OT, 20-13.
  • W2: Beat Old Dominion, 31-7.

Nope. We're hoping these guys are as good as they looked against us, and while a win over Old Dominion doesn't tell us much, it is what we expect. We'll know a lot more about the Mountaineers next week when they play Miami.

Recalibrating the Vols' future opponents

9/17/16: Ohio (1-1, 0-0 MAC, NR)

  • W1: Lost in 3OT to Texas State, 56-54.
  • W2: Beat Kansas, 37-21.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): The Bobcats rebounded from the prior week's heartbreak and dominated the Jayhawks for a half, leading 25-0 with a 359-21 advantage in yards and an 18-1 advantage in first downs. Still leaving them where they are, though, because their opponent was Kansas.

W1 W2 W3
28 28 28

9/24/16: Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC, #23)

  • W1: Beat UMass, 24-7.
  • W2: Trounced Kentucky, 45-7.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Does beating Kentucky by more than you beat UMass say more about Florida or more about Kentucky? I don't know, so I'm splitting the difference. Luke Del Rio threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns, but Kentucky is also terrible. I'm moving Florida up a couple of spots and Kentucky, which was already pretty low, down one.

W1 W2 W3
20 20 18

10/1/16: Georgia (2-0, 0-0 SEC, #16)

  • W1: Beat North Carolina, 33-24.
  • W2: Barely beat Nicholls, 26-24.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Hmm. Looked really good last week against a good opponent, really not so good this week against a not so good opponent. What to think? I'm dropping them four spots, two to get them back down to where they were at the beginning of the season and an extra two for extreme flakiness.

W1 W2 W3
12 10 14

10/8/16: Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC, #17)

  • W1: Beat #16 UCLA in OT, 31-24.
  • W2: Beat Prairie View A&M, 67-0.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): It was PVA&M, sure, but approaching 70 points on the scoreboard means that you really can't even help it, so I'm going to go ahead and do the drastic thing and move the Aggies up two spots, which will put them above Georgia. Great, that's all we needed.

W1 W2 W3
15 15 13

10/15/16: Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC, #1)

  • W1: Clobbered #20 USC, 52-6.
  • W2: Beat Western Kentucky, 38-10.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Alabama, the only team that can essentially sleepwalk against a decent team and still win by 28 points. Quarterback was the one question, and it appears to have already been answered. I'm leaving them right there at the 6 spot.

W1 W2 W3
11 6 6

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

  • W1: Beat Vanderbilt, 13-10.
  • W2: Lost to Mississippi State, 27-14.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Few will be surprised to learn that Muschamp's South Carolina team was outgained 485-243, even by Mississippi State. But I'll remind you that Mississippi State was upset by South Alabama last week. It seems like we should drop these guys even further, but the problem is that they're all bunched up with Vanderbilt (who they beat), Missouri, and Kentucky. I think I'm keeping the group right where they are and just putting Missouri up at the top of the group. That means, the Gamecocks are at 24 this week.

W1 W2 W3
23 23 24

11/5/16: Tennessee Tech (1-1, 1-0 OVC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to Wofford, 21-7.
  • W2: Beat Austin Peay, 41-7.

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

W1 W2 W3
29 29 29

11/12/16: Kentucky (0-1, 0-0 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Collapsed and lost to Southern Miss, 44-35.
  • W2: Lost to Florida, 45-7.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): See above discussion about the Florida Gators.

W1 W2 W3
24 26 27

11/19/16: Missouri (1-1, 0-0 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to West Virginia, 26-11.
  • W2: Beat Eastern Michigan, 61-21.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): That's an interesting score against EMU, but the whole "scored nearly 70 points" thing I said about Texas A&M doesn't really apply to Missouri. It's in the rule book. But it does raise one lazy eyebrow, so I'm watching and also moving them to the top of the lowest group of SEC opponents. 23.

W1 W2 W3
19 25 23

11/26/16: Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to South Carolina, 13-10.
  • W2: Best MTSU, 47-24.

Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): The lede from the ESPN game recap:

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason turned the lights out in the locker room for 10 minutes during a weather delay that lasted for an hour, 44 minutes. He wanted his Commodores to picture themselves playing good football.

So no actual video? Okay, then.

But seriously, good game against the Blue Raiders. Doesn't change my mind, and Missouri nearly hit 70, so you know.

W1 W2 W3
26 24 25