Some Words About the Vols

Those of you who have read my blog for a while have probably noticed the absence of my weekly posts this year following each Tennessee Vols game. I thought about doing that again but just haven’t been motivated to do so. I decided following today’s game to share my feelings about the season thus far and my predictions for the rest of the year.

First let me start with what has happened so far. Here is the results from the first 6 games.

Date Opponent Location Score W – L Record
9/4/10 Tennessee-Martin Knoxville, TN 50-0 W 1-0
9/11/10 Oregon Knoxville, TN 48-13 L 1-1
9/18/10 Florida Knoxville, TN 31-17 L 1-2
9/25/10 UAB Knoxville, TN 32-29 W (OT) 2-2
10/2/10 @ LSU Baton Rouge, LA 16-14 L 2-3
10/9/10 @ Georgia Athens, GA 41-14 L 2-4

This is not the start I had hoped for under new coach Derek Dooley. The Vols looked great in the opener, but you have to consider the opponent. Tennessee-Martin is not known as a football powerhouse, so the big 50-0 victory was no surprise. What I learned from watching that first game was that Tennessee has a lot of talent on the team, but they are very young and have a lot to learn. That was evident in the loss the next week to a very good Oregon team. While Tennessee held their own in the first half (the game was tied 13-13 at the half), they completely fell apart in the second half. I think the inexperience of the players was a huge reason for that. They lost their confidence and just seemed to give up.

Next up was Florida. To no one’s surprise the Gators had no trouble handling the Vols. Again, Tennessee played a solid first half, but the second half was just horrible. It seems that has been a common theme this year. It was about the same the next week when the Vols faced UAB. I expected this to be an easy win for Tennessee. Instead, as has been the case all season, the Vols struggled in the second half and allowed UAB to mount a comeback and tie the game. The Vols finally won it in the second OT.

Then we get to the biggest disappointment of the season thus far. Tennessee traveled to Baton Rouge to battle LSU. I didn’t expect a win in this one, nor did anyone else. The Vols came out and surprised everyone. They out-played the Tigers and had the game wrapped up. Leading 14-10 with time running out, the LSU offense was in complete confusion. They finally snapped the ball, which went over the QB’s head as time expired. That should have been the game…but hold on. There was a flag on the play. It turns out the LSU offense wasn’t the only one confused. The Vols shuffled players on and off the field and ended up with too many men (13 to be exact). The result was an un-timed play for LSU, which gave them a TD and a 16-14 win.

Today Tennessee faced Georgia in Athens, GA. I have seen the Bulldogs play a few times this season, and they don’t have a great team. In fact, I thought the Vols had a good chance to get a big road win. Was I ever wrong! Georgia capitalized off Tennessee turnovers early and had a 27-7 lead at halftime.  They would go on to win 41-14.

That brings us up to speed on the season. As I said earlier, Tennessee has a lot on young players on the team. Many of them are on the offensive line. I’m not sure how many times QB Matt Simms has been sacked, but I do know it has been far too many. This kid has taken a beating because his offensive line has not stepped up and stopped the rush. I think that has been a big factor in the losses Tennessee has suffered. But, I can’t lay all the blame there. Simms has made some bad decisions throwing the ball that resulted in interceptions. Turnovers especially hurt the Vols today in the loss to Georgia. I think, however, the biggest thing that has killed the Vols this season has been the inability to convert on 3rd down. Going into the game today they were successful on only 25% of their 3rd down conversions. If it was 3rd and 6+ yards, that number dropped to roughly 4%. I don’t care how good your ball club is…if you have numbers like that on 3rd down you simply cannot win games.

So what about the rest of the season? I wish I could be optimistic and say Tennessee will turn things around and be able to salvage the season. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening. In fact, I predict this might be the worst record the Vols have posted in some time. They have some very tough games ahead. Here is a list of the remaining games and my prediction for each.

Date Opponent Location Prediction Record
10/23/10 Alabama Knoxville, TN L
10/30/10 @ South Carolina Columbia, SC L
11/6/10 @ Memphis Memphis, TN W
11/13/10 Ole Miss Knoxville, TN L
11/20/10 @ Vanderbilt Nashville, TN W
11/27/10 Kentucky Knoxville, TN L 4-8

I hope I’m wrong on my predictions and the Vols manage to win a few more. If not, that’s OK. They have lots of young, talented players that will be around for a few years. And, we finally have a coach I feel can get the program back to the level the fans expect…back into the top 25. I get frustrated with the losses, but once a Vol always a Vol. I still bleed orange! GO VOLS!!!

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