Tennessee Football 2011: Power Ranking the Opponents Most Likely to Upset Vols
It's that 600 lb gorilla in the room that Vols don't want to talk about: The teams that could upset Tennessee.
Lat year, it was virtually everybody, so the Vols were rather indifferent. It was nothing out of the norm to hear a fan remark, "Yea I know, tell me something I haven't heard." But with Derek Dooley's winds of change, come midseason it became more common to hear fans say,"Oh yeah, well somebody's gonna lose money!"
This year those winds of change are blowing harder than ever. Practices are professional and organized, scrimmages are played with an air of determination, and the players are optimistic but humble. Still yet, even being humble and full of wind-changed determination, there are teams that could upset the Vols. So peak inside for a look at the power players who are seeing the color orange.
The Kentucky Wildcats
Just by playing the odds you know that eventually the tides must turn.
This is a long-shot at best. We all know that Joker Phillips is supposed to be the best thing for Kentucky since sliced bread. However, with their offense being so depleted by the loss of QB Mike Hartline, FB Moncell Allen, TB Derrick Locke, WR Chris Matthews, OT Brad Durham and WR Randall Cobb, it puts all the pressure on the defense that is returning 10 starters.
But, it's roughly the same defense that OC Jim Chaney gave so much trouble in their 24-14 victory inside a packed Neyland stadium. Based on the streak and a bunch of cranky players and fans, it comes in at No. 7.
The Arkansas Razorbacks
Sooooeee! Sooooeee! Sooooeee! I thought I would say a few for them myself since their biggest opportunity for offensive achievements just broke his ankle and is out for the season. RB Knile Davis rushed for 1,322 yards, 13 TDs last season and averaged 6.5 yards a carry. It's a tragedy and nobody wants an athlete to be injured....well maybe a bloody nose for the occasional cocky QB, but a season-ending injury, no.
Anyhow, RB Broderick Green only rushed for 365 yards and three TDs last season, so nobody really, really knows his potential. But he is a "big un" at 6'2" 250lbs, so if he isn't fast enough he might very well run over a few Vols.
But I think the overall passing game led by QB Tyler Wilson will not be enough to carry the Hogs. Although Bobby Petrino seems to be picking up on college football coaching, last season his Razorbacks came out and beat up on Georgia, Texas A&M and narrowly lost to Bama 24-20.
They carried on to beat S. Carolina, Mississippi St., LSU and gave No. 6 Ohio St. a helluva game in the Sugar Bowl, suffering a heart-breaker loss 31-26. They are depleted offensively and lost their best LB, DE, CB and SS. No. 6 for Bill Clinton's boys.
The Georgia Bulldogs
Clay Travis, another sports writer, wrote in September of 2009 that: "....Richt was following Phil Fulmer's path, that he would be the next successful coach in the SEC forced out."
I think that is spot on if Georgia HC Mark Richt can't pull out a respectable season this year. You can't help but like the guy though. He is always soft-spoken, level-headed and seems to command the respect of the players and his staff, so for him may he win more than he loses.
That being said, the Dawgs have to visit Knoxville this year, and their offense despite Aaron Murray....that old red mare...err Dawg aint what she used to be. The offense hits the field this season without FB Shaun Chapas, FB Fred Munzenmaier, WR Kris Durham, C Chris Davis, OG Clint Boling, OT Josh Davis, WR A.J. Green, TB Washaun Ealey and TB Caleb King.
All of these losses will create some confusion no matter how many tricks OC Mike Bobo has up his sleeve. But just because a rivalry has started to surface again these last few years, I wouldn't expect those pesky Dawgs to just roll over and play dead. Were it not for the stress of Richt having to win games, I would have ranked him at No. 4 but, the Bulldogs come in at No. 5.
The LSU Tigers
Alright! Now that the Mad Hatter has Forest Gumped his way through another close win, celebrate like you won the BCS National Championship! Hooray!
Oh my, it still stings doesn't it? Right this minute there is only one team that the Vols have on their radar, but as RUN DMC sang, "It's Tricky." You can be sure that as senior Vols left after graduation they stopped in the door long enough to tell the underclassmen you better beat LSU.
The game was utter chaos, but in the end, the Vols celebrated for a fraction of a minute before the referees took it all away. This season is, as said above, tricky, but the Tigers bring back a healthy portion on both sides of the ball and that always spells trouble no matter who you play.
So it's kinda of cut and dry, the Vols get LSU at home, but the Tigers will come to Neyland with senior QB Jordan Jefferson, and junior WRs Russel Shepard and Rueben Randle, CB Morris Claiborne and DE Kendrick Adams. Will those guns be enough or loaded for bird? It's tricky, the Tigers come in at No. 4.
The Florida Gators
"I MUST BREAK YOU." He seems to say in an Ivan Drago voice. Seriously, if Les Miles is the Mad Hatter, Will Muschamp is Mr. Crazy Eyes.
Say what you will about Muschamp or Florida, but no matter how depleted the starting lineup may seem, there always seems to be room for the Gators to pull a few tricks out of their hats.... or visors.
However, factor in that the staff is brand new and Urban Meyer didn't exactly stick around to aid the transition, and, yes, the Gators do seem somewhat weakened as of late, and these guys are gone: OT Marcus Gilbert, OG Carl Johnson, OG Maurice Hurt and C Mike Pouncey.
Yes, it would seem that John Brantley should be a little nervous. Not to mention that the only people that have any faith in Charlie Weis is himself and Will Muschamp. But, but, but there are mitigating factors when you play in the Swamp.
It's not exactly a friendly atmosphere and even Vol fans despise attending games at Ben Hill due to the animosity that comes with the visit. Just for being Florida, they just miss being No. 2 and take the No. 3.
The South Carolina Gamecocks
Ok, in this video we're going to play "Where's Waldo," and you tell me how many times you see the Ole' Ball Coach. Steve-o must've had an early tee-time.
There is something about Steve Spurrier that just screams, I can do whatever I want to do, because I'm Steve Spurrier damn it! If Ric Flair was a coach, look no further.
As a head coach he has been the ACC coach of the year in 1988,1989, then the SEC coach of the year 1990,1991,1996, 2005 and 2010. Suffice to say he knows a thing or two about that clipboard he carries with him up and down the sideline.
Even though Darth Visor loses seven starters, he is still cunning enough to fill in the gaps where necessary. But for the record he loses offensive starters TE Patrick DiMarco, RB Brian Maddox, OT Jarriel King, OG Garrett Chisolm, OT Hutch Eckerson, K Spencer Lanning and WR Tori Gurley. He also loses six starters on the other side of the ball, but since he is the Scourge of Gainesville, the Gamecocks are No. 2.
The Alabama Crimson Tide
I think it's a fair assumption that the Tide took their spring game a teensy-bit more serious.
Yes the Tide comes in at No.1 because even if the Vols don't make any mistakes the Tide can pressure them into being reckless. That is what the Tide does well. They play every down like they are playing for a trophy.
If the Vols expect to win against them, they will have to play Tide football. That means they will have to be perfect and force the Tide into recklessness, because they will be prepared and they won't be intimidated. The Vols are still unfortunately far and away from being perfect, and Nick Saban is a shark in SEC waters, and he always smells blood.
Vol fans can hope, but don't be disappointed. Next season however is a different story.
Like or don't like what you read? Let me know.