Tennessee Volunteers Football: Previewing the Season After Week 2
Two weeks into the 2011 season and the Vols are 2-0. A good start to say the least, but what about the rest of the season?
We now know a little bit more about the teams that Tennessee will be facing for the rest of their campaign, so what's new?
I've looked at the results of every team that Tennessee will face now and made some more predictions about what those games will have in store for the Vols.
Tennessee at Florida
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Florida looks tough. Very tough. They have a great defensive line (even without Sharrif Floyd), great linebackers and a great run game.
That said, they've been playing what Gordon Gee used to call "the little sisters of the poor."
While their 41-3 victory over FAU and 39-0 shutout of UAB are both impressive, it doesn't say much about their ability against tougher SEC opponents.
Their first big test will be against Tennessee. Luckily for Tennessee fans, Tennessee has played tougher opponents than Florida has. Montana may be an FCS team, but they've been a dominant one.
Cincinnati managed to put up 72 points on Week 1 opponent Austin Peay and boasts one of the nations best running backs in Isaiah Pead, not to mention the fact that they're a BCS team.
Florida has home field advantage, but Tennessee will be a big step up from UAB, and Florida may not be ready for the adjustment. I still consider Tennessee an underdog against Florida, but I wouldn't be shocked if Tennessee leaves the Swamp with a win.
Tennessee Hosts Buffalo
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So Buffalo isn't the toughest team. They lost to Pittsburgh 35-16, then beat FCS school Stony Brook 35-7 in Week 2.
Despite being an FBS team, I don't expect Buffalo to play at about the same level as Montana. The Bulls' starting quarterback is a kid by the name of Chazz Anderson. Never heard of him? Didn't think so.
Well then, why did I bring it up? Anderson is a new transfer to Buffalo this year. His previous job: backup quarterback at Cincinnati.
If the Vols can shut down Collaros, I think they ought to be able to shut down his backup. Tennessee wins this one by a large margin.
Tennessee Hosts Georgia
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This is a big one. Georgia may have lost their first two games, but Boise State is a great team, and they were just one missed field goal away from taking South Carolina into overtime.
To make the pressure even more intense, Mark Richt is playing for his job right now and needs every win he can get. Georgia will want a repeat of last year's 41-14 embarrassment.
Georgia still has to face Mississippi State, who will be looking to prove themselves again after dropping off in Week 2 against Auburn before they face Tennessee. I believe Georgia will face Tennessee as a 2-3 team, with losses to Boise, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
This could help or hurt the Vols. It helps because Tennessee will have all the momentum; UT will have one loss at the most and could still be undefeated. It hurts because Georgia will have its first shot at a big win this season.
Still, I expect Tennessee to avenge last year's loss and send the Dawgs home with their tails between their legs.
Tennessee Hosts LSU
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Is it me, or is LSU the best team in the country? They very well might be. At least we get to host them.
On paper, Tennessee has no chance against LSU. However, that was the case last year as well and Tennessee was just one stupid penalty away from upsetting LSU in Death Valley.
This year, Tennessee is better than last year and is hosting the Tigers.
LSU is tough in pass coverage. If Bray can still get the ball to Rogers and Hunter through LSU's defensive backs then Tennessee should be very excited. Still, optimistic as I am, I don't think Tennessee will be able to come away with this one, but they will almost definitely beat the spread.
On the other hand, Tennessee wants this one badly, so I wouldn't be that shocked if they managed to pull out the upset and dash LSU's National Championship ambitions.
Tennessee at Alabama
Well, if LSU isn't the best team in the SEC, Alabama is. I'll be honest, I don't hold out much hope for Tennessee in this matchup.
That said, Alabama is far from invincible. They lost outstanding wide receiver Julio Jones, Heisman winning running back Mark Ingram and quarterback Greg McElroy to the draft last year, so their offense has stuttered. New quarterback AJ McCarron has been less than stellar thus far as well.
It's Alabama's defense that's working wonders and winning games for them. Alabama has first round prospects at nearly every defensive position and are already playing at the level you expect from a pro football team.
Alabama has beaten Tennessee in the last four times these teams have met, but it's a historic rivalry where anything could happen. But if I were a betting man, I'd not put too much cash on Tennessee.
Tennessee Hosts South Carolina
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Is anyone else seeing some cracks in the armor? I certainly am.
Don't get me wrong, South Carolina is an outstanding team. They're just less outstanding than I thought they were.
In Week 1, East Carolina led them at halftime, but Stephen Garcia came off the bench and wrenched victory from the jaws of defeat with a little (a lot) help from Alshon Jefferey and the nation's best running back, Marcus Lattimore.
Much like Alabama, I am more confident about Tennessee's chances against South Carolina than I was in the preseason. Their defense is not as tough as it looks on paper, so Tennessee can score on them. And score they will.
Unfortunately, I still think Tennessee's defense is even shakier. Tennessee won't be able to stop Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jefferey, but they might slow them down enough to keep it close.
South Carolina will win by about ten points.
Tennessee Hosts MTSU
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Middle Tennessee State got my attention in Week 1 when they almost beat Purdue. I have been expecting MTSU to be Tennessee's easiest game for some time now, so I was shocked by their near upset of a Big Ten program.
Then I saw Purdue lose to Rice and realized that Purdue is just that bad.
To make matters worse, MTSU got its doors blown out by Georgia Tech 49-21. For the record, 14 of those points came in the final quarter while Georgia Tech rested its starters.
That's a loss to a bad team and a huge loss to a pretty good team. Tennessee is more than pretty good and so MTSU won't stand a chance.
Tennessee at Arkansas
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This is another game where I don't like Tennessee's chances. Arkansas has not exactly played to top level competition, but they're still completely blowing through the teams they have played.
The thing that worries me is that Arkansas rushed for 274 yards and seven touchdowns in their win against New Mexico. For those of you who have been under a rock the last few weeks, they're doing that without Knile Davis.
If you want the numbers, they beat Missouri State 51-7 and New Mexico 52-3.
Arkansas might be blowing out New Mexico and Missouri State because they're very inferior opponents, or they could just be showing BCS teams what they're in for.
Because the opponents they've had were so weak, I don't have any new information about Arkansas, so I have to keep thinking what I thought about them in the preseason: They're very good, and Tennessee has to play them on the road. I don't like those odds.
Tennessee Hosts Vanderbilt
Wow. Vanderbilt just beat Connecticut 24-21.
If you don't remember, Connecticut won the Big East last year and played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. They got destroyed, but a BCS bowl is an accomplishment nonetheless.
Vanderbilt blew out Elon 45-14, but that can be all but ignored.
I watched the Vanderbilt-Connecticut game, and I have to say that I was unimpressed by their three-quarterback offense. You know what they say: If you have three quarterbacks, you really have none.
Still, Vanderbilt has a solid defense, led by linebacker Chris Marve and cornerback Casey Hayward, and they'll be no slouches.
But good as they are, their defense isn't good enough to hold up Tennessee's passing game and their offense is terrible. They might figure out who they are offensively before they meet Tennessee, and if they do, they'll be a dangerous team, but I'm still confident Tennessee comes away with a win.
Tennessee at Kentucky
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Kentucky has home field advantage, and that's about it. With Vanderbilt seemingly improved from last year, Kentucky might be the worst team in the SEC.
They beat Western Kentucky 14-3 in Week 1 and Central Michigan 27-13 in Week 2, but not all wins are created equal.
Kentucky lost the greatest receiver that they've ever had, Randall Cobb, to the draft last year. You might remember Cobb as the Green Bay kick returner who scored a touchdown against the Saints on Thursday. Well, he's gone now, along with quarterback Mike Hartline and running back Derrick Locke.
Kentucky's offense is maybe worse than Vanderbilt's, and outside of linebacker Danny Trevathan, they don't have a lot on defense either. To make things worse for the Wildcats, Tennessee will likely be playing them to get into a major bowl and won't let them slip under the radar.
Tennessee ought to continue the streak into its 27th year.
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So Tennessee ought to finish the season 8-4. Four more wins will come from Buffalo, MTSU, Vanderbilt and Kentucky and two losses will come from Arkansas and Alabama.
The other four games—Florida, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina—ought to go half one way and half the other.
Eight wins will be enough for second in the SEC East and fifth in the SEC overall. That will probably put Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against either NC State or Maryland. Not too shabby.
It'll be a good year to be a Volunteer.