SEC Football Q&A: Tennessee over Florida, Down Years and International Games

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 28, 2014

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones
Tennessee head coach Butch JonesGarry Jones/Associated Press

Every Friday, we feature questions from Twitter. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee.

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

@BarrettSallee Does Tennessee have a chance to be better than Florida this year?

— Nick Durante (@duranman43) March 26, 2014

A chance? Sure.

And not one of those "one-in-a-million" chances that Lloyd Christmas talked about in Dumb & Dumber.

Tennessee has a wealth of talent at the skill positions, particularly at wide receiver, but doesn't have a single returning starter on either the offensive or defensive line. That uncertainty in the trenches will prevent the Vols from taking a gigantic leap forward in 2014, but that doesn't mean they can't improve and take a small step.

The issue with Tennessee will be consistency.

That wasn't an issue for Florida last season, for both good and bad reasons. The defense was solid despite major injuries, but the offense was consistently abysmal.

Head coach Will Muschamp hired Kurt Roper to install his version of the no-huddle offense in the offseason. Florida's season and Muschamp's employment ride on Roper's ability to buck the trend and get the offense back to a competitive level.

If he doesn't, that five-game stretch at Alabama and Tennessse, home against LSU and Missouri, then in Jacksonville versus Georgia could spell doom for the Gators and Muschamp, and keep the Vols above the Gators in the SEC East pecking order.


@BarrettSallee most years 1 SEC powerhouse has a down year (Florida 2013, Auburn 2012) which power program will have a down year this year

— ATL_MUT_LEGEND (@Mjustin0) March 23, 2014

I don't think any of the traditional powers will have a four- or three-win season, like those two programs had in their down years.

With that said, there may be one or two traditional powers that don't live up to expectations this season, and Texas A&M is a candidate. 

I wrote earlier his week that new quarterbacks don't determine down years, but at Texas A&M, they might. I know Kenny Hill is a dynamic playmaker, Kyle Allen is a Case Keenum clone and Matt Joeckel has the experience. But can any of those guys keep the Texas A&M offense—which has averaged 548.5 yards per game—cooking at a comparable level to the one Manziel helped produce?

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin
Texas A&M head coach Kevin SumlinWesley Hitt/Getty Images

That's unlikely. The problem is, the offense might have to stay at a comparable level if Texas A&M wants to remain relevant in the SEC. 

The reason? Texas A&M's defense was abysmal last season, and they'll have to take a gigantic leap forward to pick up the slack.

I'm not sure the team can do it. Sure, the Aggies have a ton of talent returning on that side of the ball, but the Aggies looked confused last season, struggled with fundamentals and looked lost for the majority of the season.

It could get better and it should get better, but just how much better will determine if A&M has a "down year" or not.


@BarrettSallee If CFB opened internationally where would you want that to be and what would be the matchup? (Besides ND in Ireland again)

— GATA Dawgs (@BassinDawg) March 21, 2014

The Bahamas, of course.

The Bahamas Bowl will have its inaugural game following this season (which I have been lobbying to cover, because...Atlantis). If it's successful, why not bring another neutral site game—say, on Labor Day/opening weekend—to add to the already-existing kickoff games?

Nassau, Bahamas has hosted a college basketball tournament every November since 2011
Nassau, Bahamas has hosted a college basketball tournament every November since 2011Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The old Coca-Cola Classic was played in Tokyo, Japan in the 1980s and '90s, and college football could certainly take a page out of Major League Baseball's book and open the season there in certain seasons. Australia has played host to a few college football games over the years, including a 1987 matchup between BYU and Colorado State. I'd be all for heading down under and opening up the sport to that audience.

But generally speaking, I don't think college football should expand internationally too quickly. Professional leagues are still trying to figure out the best practices in opening up their sports to the international audience. Since college football's financial landscape is much different and constantly changing, it'd be best for the sport to let those guys sort it out and lay a path while dipping its foot in the water every once in a while.

Notre Dame legends played Team Japan in Tokyo in 2009
Notre Dame legends played Team Japan in Tokyo in 2009Junji Kurokawa/Associated Press


Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

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