Recalibrating the Vols after the Appalachian State game
I took my five-year-old daughter to her first real Tennessee football game last Thursday night. The next morning I asked her to tell me her favorite part of the football game. I waited while she thought about it for a few seconds, thinking she'd settle on the popcorn or Smokey or some other toddler priority, but she said, "We won." That's my girl.
And that is, in fact, the best thing about last Thursday's football game against Appalachian State. We survived.
The glass may be half full this morning, but that half empty space is still concerning. Just how good are the Mountaineers? Are we just allergic to cut blocks? Will we see that any more this season? Was it early season rust? Surely we can't be worse than last year with most everyone returning, can we? Why is it that it was our best players who made the worst mistakes? And on and on and on. Just how concerned should we be?
For me, the bottom line is this: I think Appalachian State was even better than the good team we thought they were. And the rest is some unknown mixture of three things: that we were really rusty, that we may not be as good as we thought we were, and that we don't yet know how to keep expectations from making us overconfident. And I think the last of those may (should) have been fixed by that near miss Thursday night. But if it's more that we're just not as good as we thought, well then, we have a problem. We just have to see more games to know. But consider expectations tempered for the time being.
Recalibrating the Vols' remaining opponents
On the other hand, a lot of other teams had even more significant trouble this opening weekend, and some didn't even survive with their perfect record intact.
So overall, I feel a somewhat less confident in the Vols themselves and . . . differently in both directions about most of their future opponents. Details are below, but first, here's the chart for this week:
|5-30 SCALE||Week 1||Week 2|
|15||Texas A&M||Texas A&M|
|21||Virginia Tech||Virginia Tech|
|25||Appalachian State (W; 20-13 (OT))||Missouri|
|29||Tennessee Tech||Tennessee Tech|
9/10/16: Virginia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC, NR)
- W1: Beat Liberty, 36-13.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): At one point in this game, Tech fans in the stands on Saturday looked a lot like Vols fans in the stands on Thursday. And I didn't even know Liberty had a football program despite the fact that I know several people who attend there. Tech did not impress early, is what I'm saying. Of course, Tennessee didn't impress for most of their own game. So now that I know a little more than nothing, I'm leaving the Hokies right where they were when I knew nothing. 21. We should get them, but who knows?
|PREDICTIONS - VIRGINIA TECH|
9/17/16: Ohio (0-1, 0-0 MAC, NR)
- W1: Lost in 3OT to Texas State, 56-54.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Last weekend's game between the Ohio Bobcats and the Texas State Somethings may be the best game you didn't hear a whisper about. It doesn't change me slotting Ohio at 28, but there you go.
|PREDICTIONS - OHIO|
9/24/16: Florida (1-0, 0-0 SEC, #25)
- W1: Beat UMass, 24-7.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): I was going to write something about this game, but apparently the highlights were Steve Spurrier being Steve Spurrier, and that's really all you need to know, assuming you remember that he's no longer the coach in Gainesville. Not afraid of these guys, and yet still very wary of the outcome.
|PREDICTIONS - FLORIDA|
10/1/16: Georgia (1-0, 0-0 SEC, #18)
- W1: Beat North Carolina, 33-24.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): So these guys looked really good. A healthy Chubb and a freshman quarterback who looked every bit the part of his 5-star recruiting rating. My concern about this game was already higher than any but Alabama, and after this week, it only increases. Moving them from 12 to 10. Sigh.
|PREDICTIONS - GEORGIA|
10/8/16: Texas A&M (1-0, 0-0 SEC, NR)
- W1: Beat #16 UCLA in OT, 31-24.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): A&M forced UCLA's Josh Rosen into three interceptions, and Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight looked like he was the answer to the Aggies' QB woes. I'm worried that I'm not worried about this one yet. I think I will be later. For now, I'm leaving them at 15.
|PREDICTIONS - TEXAS A&M|
10/15/16: Alabama (1-0, 0-0 SEC, #1)
- W1: Clobbered #20 USC, 52-6.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): New quarterback, new running backs, new names and numbers everywhere. And yet same old 'Bama. Yikes, they looked good when they finally found their groove. Moving them all the way from 11 to 6. If the Vols would have looked like I thought they would, things would be different this week, but as it stands right now, I feel sick.
|PREDICTIONS - ALABAMA|
10/29/16: South Carolina (1-0, 1-0 SEC, NR)
- W1: Beat Vanderbilt, 13-10.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): I missed the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game trying to keep my supper down in Neyland Stadium, but I gather from the highlights that it was about as entertaining. The good news for the Gamecocks is that they hit a 55-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to beat Vanderbilt. The bad news for the Gamecocks is that they needed a 55-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to beat Vanderbilt. So I'm moving them down to 23.
|PREDICTIONS - SOUTH CAROLINA|
11/5/16: Tennessee Tech (0-1, 0-0 OVC, NR)
- W1: Lost to Wofford, 21-7.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Not making any jokes about this game. Just glad that Wofford's Michael Roach is okay after staff had to give him CPR on the field in the third quarter. Be well, young man.
|PREDICTIONS - TENNESSEE TECH|
11/12/16: Kentucky (0-1, 0-0 SEC, NR)
- W1: Collapsed and lost to Southern Miss, 44-35.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): My goodness, Kentucky led 35-10 and lost 44-35. Appropriately enough, one of Southern Miss' two running backs is named Payne. So the Wildcats drop from 24-26.
|PREDICTIONS - KENTUCKY|
11/19/16: Missouri (0-1, 0-0 SEC, NR)
- W1: Lost to West Virginia, 26-11.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): ESPN putting the hilariously incorrect pre-game predictions video at the top of the game recap is a really nice touch. Basically, Missouri looked bad, and I'm dropping them from 19 to 25.
|PREDICTIONS - MISSOURI|
11/26/16: Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC, NR)
- W1: Lost to South Carolina, 13-10.
Expectations for a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Scoring fewer points than a Muschamp team is an accomplishment, but I am moving them up from 26 to 24 on the strength of the defense and the weakness of Missouri and Kentucky.
|PREDICTIONS - VANDERBILT|