Gate 21 is proud to host this week’s Roundtable!
This week’s Big Orange Roundtable is hosted by … ummm … oh, yeah, it’s our week. We here at the Gate are proud to host the 2009 kickoff edition of the Big Orange Roundtable as we all get ready to tee it up and kick it down for the 112th season of Tennessee Volunteers Football.
With that lovely prospect in mind, let’s get down to business:
1) (From HSH) We’ve talked through the past month or so about just about everything we could talk about regarding this Tennessee team: the quarterbacks, offensive line, freshman, Eric Berry, finding healthy wide receivers, freshman again, etc. So the simple question is this: what do you expect or what specifically are you looking for from the Vols against Western Kentucky this Saturday?
HSH: First things first, Western Kentucky is not going to be anything close to resembling a quality football team. They were recently a power in 1-AA, but this is their first full year in 1-A, and have the potential to be one of the worst teams to come to Neyland Stadium in a while (yes, I’m including Wyoming). They went just 2-10 last year (the wins were Eastern Kentucky and Murray State) and return just 12 starters from that team.
So if Tennessee hangs 60 points on the Hilltoppers, oh, well it was just Western Kentucky, right? Not exactly. I want to see Tennessee score lots of points Saturday afternoon. I expect Lane Kiffin will want to pound the rock with the running backs. I want to see a confident Jonathan Crompton that doesn’t make any mistakes and crisply runs the offense.
Defensively, I want to see which freshmen make an early impact in their first games, and how they handle playing for real. On both sides, I want to see swagger—OK, it’s WKU, but we could be playing my high school’s team and I would still want to see our players have a wealth of confidence in themselves and their coaches that creates said swagger.
Lawvol: I expect and hope to see a few things. First, I am not exactly expecting grandeur for this first game of the 2009 season, but what I am expecting to see is poise and purpose. I am hoping that this team brings their attitude—one which was sorely missing last season—and refuses to play down to the level of their opponent which they should beat under almost any circumstance.
Let’s be honest, Western Kentucky went 2-10 last season which made even the Vols’ 5-7 campaign seem decent. Prior to 2008, however, Western Kentucky had a streak of 12 straight winning seasons, and look to be on the upswing. That said, The Vols have got to play with a little spark and bring their best game to their opponent—regardless of the quality of that opponent. The Vols have to play their game and not let it be dictated to them by their opponent.
Most of all, I am looking to see a team that is glad to be on the field playing once more. I hope that we begin to see the development of the new Kiffin system and hopefully get a huge relief when the quarterback play is surprisingly crisp and effective. This is a confidence game which is only a good thing if you perform in a manner that inspires confidence
2) The last time I had to come up with questions for the Roundtable, you may remember our visit to the debate over the “Woo!” in Rocky Top. Along those lines, I want to get the take on a similar topic: pompons, or shakers if you prefer that.
The basis of this comes from Clay Travis’ book, Dixieland Delight, which I read this summer and I suggest you look into as well. First, read what Clay says about pompons/shakers (Note that this is straight from the book).
Once you’ve done that, you’re on the spot: do you make use of said pompons/shakers at Tennessee games?
HSH: As a student, of course, we have the things basically thrown at us because they’re in our seats when we get to the game. I was more inclined to use them as a freshman three years ago, but now I don’t even think about using them.
Why? They’re annoying and they’re for the pretty sorority girls all dressed up. What’s wrong with a fist pump or high-fives with those around you when the Vols make a good play? Not only that, but they occasionally block even my view of the field (I’m not exactly a short guy, either) and I every now and then get hit by the person behind me using theirs.
I know I sound really uptight, but neither of those above things really bother me – they’re just reasons I’m anti-shakers. But much like the Rocky Top “Woo!” they aren’t going anywhere…
Lawvol: As a general rule I am not a shaker guy, at least not now. When I was a student, I did on occasion raise a shaker or two into the air in jubilation, but I was never a huge fan of shakers as a means to display support for the team. I have, however, put shakers to good use in other ways. In 1997, while on a road trip to Florida, I did assemble a wig of nothing but shakers which looked particularly fetching with my blue eyes and was all the rage with the folks in Gainesville—that is until they pounded our faces into the pavement with their Jorts-clad backsides. Needless to say, I decided the wig was a bad idea.
I have, however, discovered that a properly wielded shaker can make a wonderful implement of self-defense, nee’ “weapon.” First and foremost, a shaker is a wonderfully effective way to bash people over the head who annoy you in the stadium. Shakers are not terribly menacing, per se, but when slung with force (and especially when wet) they can approximate the feeling one gets when being bashed over the head with a plate of spaghetti (sans the plate). The beauty of this is that, having pummeled your foe you can simply play it off as if you were merely overcome by a fit of gleeful spirit at the Vols’ performance on the field, or the First Tennessee ad on the Jumbotron.
The pointy end of a shaker (i.e. “the handle”) can also serve as an effective means of poking people in the ribs. This works particularly well when you obscure the handle behind your other arm and simply poke the end out into an the ribs of an unsuspecting bystander while standing in a throng of people clamoring to get out of the stadium after the game. A true raconteur will do this so that, the object of the barb is a particularly burly fellow wearing orange who is … ill tempered with strong drink. Immediately after doing that, you must turn quickly around and yell loudly at the Florida fan behind you to quit poking you. Then repeat the jab on the burly orange fellow only harder, and watch the fur fly (preferably from a distance, but be sure and hang around to give a statement to the police).
Finally, shakers can actually be used to disperse a crowd quite quickly, especially if you have numerous shakers. Simply find a cigarette lighter, and imagine yourself as one of the great medieval archers lighting your arrow and hurl the flaming shakers into the crowd. This won’t win you many friends and though it might get you arrested, it is highly entertaining…**
3) Looking back over the last year and a half, it has been an absolute roller coaster ride for the Vols and their fans. A lot of excitement has been building to this very moment as Tennessee gets set to take the field for the 2009 season. How do you feel with kickoff only days away? Are you excited? Ready to to start kickin’ ass and taking names? Unsure? Worried? Shaking like a little girl? Incapable of speaking coherently due to complete and utter hysterical fear?
HSH: I would call myself quietly confident. I know Tennessee’s going to come out and pound Western Kentucky Saturday afternoon and I’m looking more towards watching to see how all the new parts look in a game than anything else.
Now when those powder-blue-and-gold folks come calling next week, then it’s showtime. Not only is UCLA quite possibly the game that determines the first half of our season, but I—and I’m not alone—haven’t forgotten the embarrassment they caused the Vol Nation last September. They were the beneficiaries of an epic Vol fail on ESPN on Labor Day and that must be avenged.
So to keep it short, I’m ready to get Saturday’s win over Western over with, so we can start really getting the juices flowing for when UCLA visits. This Saturday will be a nice little greeting time and introduction time for everybody, but we’ll know much, much more about the Vols sometime around 8 p.m. September 4th.
Lawvol: I am hopefully optimistic, but realize that things could go poorly for the Vols this season. Thus, I think I am taking the wait-and-see approach and am hoping that we will see a few fireworks this Saturday. Mainly, I am just hoping that the Vols return to being a team once more and that the fans finally start cheering and quit booing like they did last season. Thus, I am a little worried about the in-the-stands aspect of the game.
Either way, for this week, I am pretty pumped because Western Kentucky doesn’t have a whole lot of fire. As for the Florida game … I’ll get back to you on that one.
4) Alright, we’ve come through all of the previews and prognostications thus far but one real question remains: in the minds of each of the Roundtablers how do you expect the Vols to fare against the competition on their schedule? Which games do they win, which games do they lose, and why?
HSH: Here’s my picks for the season:
- Western Kentucky: WIN — Lane Kiffin’s not going to lose his first game, and Western Kentucky isn’t really that good at football right now.
- UCLA: WIN — Neither team was good last year, and I don’t know who’s improved more, but there is absolutely no way a Pac-10 team should come 3,000 miles cross-country and beat Tennessee in Neyland Stadium (see Cal 2006).
- Florida: LOSS — Look, we aren’t going to get beat 175-0, but we aren’t going to beat Florida. They are more talented, deeper, faster, it’s really hot in the afternoons in Gainesville, and they have Tim Tebow.
- Ohio: WIN — This game kind of scares me, but Tennessee’s not going to lose to Ohio.
- Auburn: WIN — Because Gene Chizik is the coach of the Tigers. Also, right now, Chris Todd is their QB. Even if he was throwing to Andre and Calvin Johnson, he still would be no better a QB than what the Vols have. Even simpler: Tennessee should have won last year, and they added a much better recruiting class.
- Georgia: LOSS — The Vols can win this game, but UGA’s two strengths are their lines, which isn’t exactly what we’re looking at right now.
- Alabama: LOSS — I would expect a low-scoring game, but Alabama’s the better team playing at home, so I’m not going out on a limb.
- Carolina: WIN — When the Gamecocks lose Thursday night, people will see the issues they have. Unless Stephen Garcia blows up, I don’t expect much from Carolina. They’ll be solid on defense, but they lost Kenny McKinley and Jared Cook and the offensive line has been iffy at best.
- Memphis: WIN — It’s only not happened once.
- Ole Miss: LOSS — Unless the Rebels tank amidst the preseason hype – as they are fully capable of doing – you can’t expect Tennessee to win in Oxford.
- Vanderbilt: WIN — 2005 was a fluke and a half.
- Kentucky: WIN — Tennessee always beats Kentucky.
Lawvol: I’m an idiot, but here’s what I think:
- Western Kentucky: WIN — Even last year we win this one. Western Kentucky is just out-manned. In fact, to keep from showing our looks to the likes of Florida and such, I think we should only start Eric Berry, and let him take on the entire Western Kentucky squad. In that scenario, I’d say Western Kentucky 3, Eric Berry 42.
- UCLA: WIN — This one actually scares me a bit because the Bruins managed to beat us last year and they just plain sucked. Still, it should be entertaining to see The Full Monte versus Norm Chow’s offense. I think the last thing that the Blackjack General wants to do is lose to his old cross-town whipping boy from his days at USC.
- Florida: We have a chance — Yes, I realize this is not an answer to the question, but I think we might have a chance. Why? I think that the chutzpah that Kiffin has shown, paired with all the bulletin board material over the last year counts for something. I think if there is anyway humanly possible for the Vols to string together an unlikely victory on heart alone, this is the one. If the Vols win, it is a nail-biter. If it follows the script that everyone thinks rationally should happen, Florida by 7. If the Vols aren’t ready then the boys in orange (and their fans) get bent over the table and take it the hard way from the Jorts tribe.
- Ohio: WIN — Ohio almost beat the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus last year until third quarter errors gave the game away. Ohio will be trying to prove something and will com in hyped. Thus, be careful in writing them off. The Vols better forget about the Florida game really quickly (regardless of the outcome) and be ready for this one.
- Auburn: WIN — This one is intriguing, but I really think the Vols have an advantage here, albeit a small one. I think this is one of those games where the Orange are glad to be playing in Neyland Stadium. Close, but the Vols take it home.
- Georgia: WIN — I think that the loss of Stafford and Moreno leave Georgia with an anemic offense which our defense can handle. Furthermore, with an effective running game (set behind a zone blocking scheme which will have had some time to gel) I think the Vols get it done in a barnburner that goes down to the wire.
- Alabama: LOSS — This game could go either way, but I think Nick Saban will have time to get his offense settled by this late in the season and the home field advantage is just too much for the Vols. That said, if they win against Florida and have anything left in the tank Volunteers leave it on the field in Tuscaloosa and could pull out an unlikely win.
- Carolina: WIN — I think we return to what we have seen in years past from the Thunder Chickens as they awe the world with their average-ness once more. I think one year after Spurrier pushed Smiling Mike to the point of firing the Great Punkin, The Ole Ball Coach announces his retirement the day after the Vols win.
- Memphis: WIN — There is no way that the Vols should lose this game. Of course, there was no way the Vols should have lost in 1996 either. Still, a betting man calls this one a win.
- Ole Miss: WIN — The Vols have Memphis the preceding week, while Ole Miss has Northern Arizona (I didn’t even know they had a team). Thus, both should have a week to get healthy and buck-up. If Ole Miss is leading in the West, then the Vols have their work cut out for them. If not, then the Vols have a lot more to play for — respect. This could easily go Ole Miss’ way, but I’m giving the Vols the nod (for now).
- Vanderbilt: WIN — Hmmm … Vandy actually looks to have a better squad than last year, but so do the Vols. Tennessee by double digits.
- Kentucky: WIN — The complete lack of a defense by the Kentucky Wildcats helps balance out Tennessee’s weaknesses on offense. The Orange stretch the streak on more year.
The Rest of the Roundtable:
Having wasted your time on our largely meaningless and insignificant thoughts for this week, go check out what the other roundtablers (who actually know what they are talking about) have to say (in no particular order):
- Rocky Top Talk
- 3rd Saturday in Blogtober
- MoonDog Sports
- Vol Junkies
- Pigskin Pathos
- Bleeding Orange
- Loser With Socks
If trial preparation doesn’t kill me, look for a round-up sometime late in the week…