Now that we've seen the Vols team we thought we'd see this season, much of the recalibration of expectations we'd done in the first three weeks is being undone this week. But not all of it.
Explanations are below, but here's the updated chart:
|5-30 SCALE||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
|13||Texas A&M||Texas A&M|
|14||Georgia||Florida (W; 38-28)||Texas A&M|
|15||Texas A&M||Texas A&M||Georgia|
|21||Virginia Tech||Virginia Tech (W; 45-24)||South Carolina|
|24||Kentucky||Vanderbilt||South Carolina||South Carolina|
|25||Appalachian State (W; 20-13 (OT))||Missouri||Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt|
|28||Ohio||Ohio||Ohio (W; 28-19)|
|29||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech|
Recalibrating the Vols after Florida
The talk last week centered mostly around which Vols team was going to show up. Would we see the one we'd seen in the first three games of the 2016 season or the one we'd been expecting all summer? For a half against the Florida Gators, the answer was the former. And then the 2016 season we'd been hoping for finally arrived. Looking back on it, I'm not sure the team was all that terrible even in the first half in the Florida game. New corners were getting beat on double moves (it's "experience" now, which is good), and the receivers were not helping Josh Dobbs improve his passing game, but the Vols were moving the ball.
And then, finally, everything clicked. Jauan Jennings decided it was his job to go get the ball when he was the closest receiver regardless of where the ball was placed. The offensive line started moving piles and protecting Dobbs. Dobbs started hitting receivers in stride. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara and Dobbs' legs did their respective things with a little more room and a lot more effect. The defensive line started setting up shop in Florida's backfield, the 'backers filled the holes and made tackles for little or no gain, and the secondary played tight coverage without getting beat.
Everything was clicking. The SEC season had arrived and so had the team. If they play like they did in the second half against Florida the rest of the way, they can beat anyone.
I feel much more optimistic about the rest of the season after dominating second half against a dreaded rival with a psychological edge. Who doesn't? And so I'm adjusting expectations accordingly.
Recalibrating the Vols based on new results from past opponents
All three prior opponents made the Vols look good this week.
Appalachian State (2-2, 0-0 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.
Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC, NR)
- W1: Beat Liberty, 36-13.
- W2: Lost to Tennessee, 45-24.
- W3: Beat Boston College, 49-0.
- W4: Destroyed East Carolina, 54-17.
QB Jerod Evans threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another, and the team scored on its final possessions in the first half.
Ohio (2-2, 0-0 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.
The Bobcats had 30 points in the first half.
Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC, #23)
- W1: Beat UMass, 24-7.
- W2: Trounced Kentucky, 45-7.
- W3: Beat North Texas, 32-0.
- W4: Lost to Tennessee, 38-28.
Recalibrating the Vols' future opponents
10/1/16: Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC, #25)
- 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Georgia losing to Ole Miss is what we expected going into the season, but we didn't really foresee the Rebels having a 45-0 lead until midway through the fourth quarter. To make matters worse for Georgia, Nick Chubb left the game in the second quarter due to an ankle injury and didn't return. I haven't seen an update yet. The Bulldogs had a good game against North Carolina, but needed a late comeback to win against Missouri and barely beat Nicholls. Moving this game down the chart a few more spots.
|PREDICTIONS - GEORGIA|
10/8/16: Texas A&M (4-0, 2-0 SEC, #9)
- 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): So again, Tennessee manages to draw the two best teams from the SEC West. Texas A&M looks like a complete team and will likely be the second-best team the Vols play in the regular season. I am back to preseason expectations for the the Vols, though, so I'm moving this game down one spot.
|PREDICTIONS - TEXAS A&M|
10/15/16: Alabama (4-0, 1-0 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): You don't learn anything about Alabama from a game against Kent State, except that they don't take any games off. I am moving this game down a couple of spots, though, because Go Vols.
|PREDICTIONS - ALABAMA|
10/29/16: South Carolina (2-2, 1-2 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): I'm moving the entire South Carolina-Kentucky-Vanderbilt trio down the scale, and the Gamecocks fall below Kentucky due to this game. I considered moving them below Vandy, too, but am resisting that so far.
|PREDICTIONS - SOUTH CAROLINA|
11/5/16: Tennessee Tech (1-3, 1-1 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): No change.
|PREDICTIONS - TENNESSEE TECH|
11/12/16: Kentucky (2-2, 1-1 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): See discussion of South Carolina above.
|PREDICTIONS - KENTUCKY|
11/19/16: Missouri (2-2, 0-1 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): That's Delaware State, but that's a whole lot of points. Not changing anything for the Tigers right now, but I'm keeping my eyes on these guys. I will not underestimate their sneakiness again.
|PREDICTIONS - MISSOURI|
11/26/16: Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-1 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.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Vandy got a rushing touchdown as time expired to get this to overtime, and then the Hilltoppers lost the game in the first overtime period going for two and failing. See the discussion above about South Carolina. The entire group moves down, but for now I'm leaving Vandy at the bottom of the group.
|PREDICTIONS - VANDERBILT|