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Recalibrating the Vols' expectations: Loss to the Sooners does not impact SEC goals

If Team 119 can recover from the disappointing lost opportunity against the Sooners, they still have a great shot at all of their hopes for the 2015 season.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Recalibrating expectations for the Vols' remaining games is a two-step process that involves first adjusting for the Vols based on their own performance before adjusting for that of their future opponents. That first step is the more difficult one this week.

On one hand, the team rolled out to a nice lead against Oklahoma and kept it for most of the game. On the other hand, they dropped the pretty shiny fragile thing they'd earned, and it shattered all over the end zone. Even more concerning than just blowing the lead is how it was blown. The offense couldn't score and could barely move the ball for a huge portion of the game. And the defense got tired and couldn't tackle late in the game, and what we thought was the strength of not only the defense but of the team wasn't able to get the quarterback on the ground.

On yet another hand, though, if any one of a dozen things had gone differently, we'd be having an entirely different conversation this morning. Bottom line, the result wasn't unexpected, even if the way it played out was. We expected a close game, and what we got was exactly that, an even matchup between two very good teams with good prospects for good seasons. It's still about the Big 12 for Oklahoma, and it's still about the SEC for the Vols, and if the Vols take care of business in the SEC, we'll be fine.

So what about the rest of the SEC? The good news is that there appears to be even more opportunity in the SEC than we thought after Week One. Arkansas and South Carolina both lost to bad teams, Missouri and Florida struggled for their entire games, and Georgia struggled for a half against Vandy.

All of that has led me to actually adjust almost all expectations upward, at least to a degree. The Vols still have to figure out how to play with a lead and close out big games, but the opportunities are there. Details on each remaining opponent are below, but first, here's the chart:

7 Alabama Alabama
8 Alabama
10 Georgia
11 Georgia
12 Georgia
13 Arkansas
14 Oklahoma (L; 31-24 2OT)
15 Arkansas Missouri
16 Oklahoma Florida Missouri
17 Missouri Florida
18 Arkansas
19 South Carolina South Carolina
20 Florida
22 Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky
23 South Carolina
24 Vanderbilt Vanderbilt Vanderbilit
25 Bowling Green (W; 59-30)
28 North Texas North Texas North Texas
29 Western Carolina Western Carolina Western Carolina

9/19/15: Western Carolina (1-1, 0-1 Southern, NR)

  • W1: Beat Mars Hill, 41-14.
  • W2: Lost to The Citadel, 28-10.
Sat, Sept 19 @ #25 Tennessee
Sat, Oct 3 vs Presbyterian
Sat, Oct 10 vs Mercer
Sat, Oct 17 @ Wofford
Sat, Oct 24 vs Samford
Sat, Oct 31 @ Chattanooga
Sat, Nov 7 vs Furman
Sat, Nov 14 @ Texas A&M
Sat, Nov 21 @ VMI

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Still as close to a Sure Thing as the 5-30 point scale allows. 29.

Preseason W1 W2
29 29 29

9/26/15: at Florida (2-0, 0-0 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Beat New Mexico State, 61-13.
  • W2: Beat East Carolina, 31-24.
Sat, Sept 19 @ Kentucky
Sat, Sept 26 vs #25 Tennessee
Sat, Oct 3 vs #17 Ole Miss
Sat, Oct 10 @ #24 Missouri
Sat, Oct 17 @ #14 LSU
Sat, Oct 31 vs #9 Georgia*
Sat, Nov 7 vs Vanderbilt
Sat, Nov 14 @ South Carolina
Sat, Nov 21 vs FAU
Sat, Nov 28 vs #10 FSU

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Now this is more like it. A one-score victory over East Carolina, and it included a pick-six. It's still Florida, and we apparently still have some mental issues to work through, so I'm not moving this too far, but I am moving it up one. 17.

Preseason W1 W2
20 16 17

10/3/15: Arkansas (1-1, 0-0 SEC, NR)

Sat, Sept 19 vs Texas Tech
Sat, Sept 26 vs Texas A&M*
Sat, Oct 3 @ #25 Tennessee
Sat, Oct 10 @ #3 Alabama
Sat, Oct 24 vs #6 Auburn
Sat, Oct 31 vs UT Martin
Sat, Nov 7 @ #17 Ole Miss
Sat, Nov 14 @ #14 LSU
Sat, Nov 21 vs Miss St
Fri, Nov 27 vs #24 Missouri

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): File this in the Things Worse Than Losing in Double Overtime to the Sooners file. This game has been at the bottom of our Coin Flip Games list, meaning the one we were least likely to win. I've moved the whole pile four spots down, and I've moved the Hogs to the top rather than the bottom. Still concerned about these guys, primarily because it seems they lost because they chose to throw rather than run, and they will likely wise up. But Whew Pig Sooie!

Preseason W1 W2
15 13 18

10/10/15: Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC, #7)

  • W1: Beat UL Monroe, 51-14 before the game was called due to a second lightning delay.
  • W2: Beat Vanderbilt, 31-14.
Sat, Sept 19 vs South Carolina
Sat, Sept 26 vs Southern
Sat, Oct 3 vs #3 Alabama
Sat, Oct 10 @ #25 Tennessee
Sat, Oct 17 vs #24 Missouri
Sat, Oct 31 vs Florida*
Sat, Nov 7 vs Kentucky
Sat, Nov 14 @ #6 Auburn
Sat, Nov 21 vs Ga Southern
Sat, Nov 28 @ #16 Georgia Tech

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): I was going to leave Georgia at 10 until I read this report, which makes it sound like the Bulldogs really struggled for a half and were one-dimensional. Still, one-dimensional with Nick Chubb can beat most teams, especially if you're a team whose pass rush isn't as dominant as you were hoping. So I'm moving them, but only one spot.

Preseason W1 W2
12 10 11

10/17/15: Bye

10/24/15: at Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC, #2)

  • W1: Beat #20 Wisconsin, 35-17.
  • W2: Beat MTSU, 37-10.
Sat, Sept 19 vs #17 Ole Miss
Sat, Sept 26 vs UL Monroe
Sat, Oct 3 @ #9 Georgia
Sat, Oct 10 vs #18 Arkansas
Sat, Oct 17 @ Texas A&M
Sat, Oct 24 vs #25 Tennessee
Sat, Nov 7 vs #14 LSU
Sat, Nov 14 @ Miss St
Sat, Nov 21 vs Charleston So
Sat, Nov 28 @ #6 Auburn

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Same old song and dance with these guys. 7.

Preseason W1 W2
8 7 7

10/31/15: at Kentucky (2-0, 1-0 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Beat UL-Lafayette, 40-33.
  • W2: Beat South Carolina, 26-22.
Sat, Sept 19 vs Florida
Sat, Sept 26 vs #24 Missouri
Sat, Oct 3 vs E Kentucky
Thu, Oct 15 vs #6 Auburn
Sat, Oct 24 @ Miss St
Sat, Oct 31 vs #25 Tennessee
Sat, Nov 7 @ #9 Georgia
Sat, Nov 14 @ Vanderbilt
Sat, Nov 21 vs Charlotte
Sat, Nov 28 vs Louisville

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): So Kentucky won when South Carolina attempted a two-point conversion to tie the game but fumbled the ball to the Wildcats, who returned it for two points of their own. I don't even know what you call that. Regardless, Kentucky broke its 22-game road losing streak, but I think it may say more about the Gamecocks than it does Kentucky, so I'm keeping them right where we had them last week, at 22.

Preseason W1 W2
22 22 22

11/7/15: South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Squawked by UNC, 17-13.
  • W2: Lost to Kentucky, 26-22.
Sat, Sept 19 @ #9 Georgia
Sat, Sept 26 vs UCF
Sat, Oct 3 @ #24 Missouri
Sat, Oct 10 vs #14 LSU
Sat, Oct 17 vs Vanderbilt
Sat, Oct 31 @ Texas A&M
Sat, Nov 7 @ #25 Tennessee
Sat, Nov 14 vs Florida
Sat, Nov 21 vs The Citadel
Sat, Nov 28 vs #12 Clemson

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): See above. I'm moving the Gamecocks up to 23, between Kentucky and Vandy. Sorry, Steve.

Preseason W1 W2
19 19 23

11/14/15: North Texas (0-1, 0-0 C-USA, NR)

  • W1: DNP.
  • W2: Lost to SMU, 31-13.
Sat, Sept 19 vs Rice
Sat, Sept 26 @ Iowa
Sat, Oct 3 @ Southern Miss
Sat, Oct 10 vs Portland State
Thu, Oct 15 vs W Kentucky
Sat, Oct 24 @ Marshall
Sat, Oct 31 vs UTSA
Sat, Nov 7 @ LA Tech
Sat, Nov 14 @ #25 Tennessee
Sat, Nov 21 @ Mid Tennessee
Sat, Nov 28 vs UTEP

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): No change. 28.

Preseason W1 W2
28 28 28

11/21/15: at Missouri (2-0, 0-0 SEC, #22)

  • W1: Beat SE Missouri State, 34-3.
  • W2: Beat Arkansas State, 27-20.
Sat, Sept 19 vs UConn
Sat, Sept 26 @ Kentucky
Sat, Oct 3 vs South Carolina
Sat, Oct 10 vs Florida
Sat, Oct 17 @ #9 Georgia
Sat, Oct 24 @ Vanderbilt
Thu, Nov 5 vs Miss St
Sat, Nov 14 vs BYU*
Sat, Nov 21 vs #25 Tennessee
Fri, Nov 27 @ #18 Arkansas

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): Part of college football is just showing up and surviving in a week like this, as evidenced by the fact that the Tigers beat Arkansas State by one touchdown and climbed two spots in the polls. Part of their struggles, though, were due to the injury to running back Russell Hansbrough, and that appears to be temporary, so although I'm moving them up, it's only one spot to 16. They're now at the bottom of our Coin Flip list.

Preseason W1 W2
17 15 16

11/28/15: Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1 SEC, NR)

  • W1: Lost to Western Kentucky, 14-12.
  • W2: Lost to Georgia, 31-14.
Sat, Sept 19 vs Austin Peay
Sat, Sept 26 @ #17 Ole Miss
Sat, Oct 3 @ Mid Tennessee
Sat, Oct 17 @ South Carolina
Sat, Oct 24 vs #24 Missouri
Sat, Oct 31 @ Houston
Sat, Nov 7 @ Florida
Sat, Nov 14 vs Kentucky
Sat, Nov 21 vs Texas A&M
Sat, Nov 28 @ #25 Tennessee

Chances of a Vols win (on a scale from 5-30): I'm keeping Vandy steady at 24.

Preseason W1 W2
24 24 24