Tennessee ended the regular season 5-7 last year by losing to Kentucky for the first time since 1984. However, oddsmakers believe the Vols will gain bowl eligibility this season and have set their 2012 college football win totals at over 7 (-135) and under 7 (+115).
Helping us preview and project Tennessee’s 2012 season win totals is Jai Eugene over at the Tennessee football website Losers With Socks.
Initially I think that Tennessee is bigger, stronger, faster, better coached, and for the most part have high character kids. Everyone with any kind of football acumen knows that high character kids don’t produce wins. There is a reason the Fulmer Cup is called the Fulmer Cup.
The team strengths are the passing and the kicking game. Receivers Rogers, Patterson, Hunter and Rivera promise to be as good of a bunch catching the ball since the Peyton Manning era.
Although the offensive line run blocks like shit, they can pass block like it is nobody’s business. So QB Tyler Bray, who ESPN ranked as the #6 QB in the nation, should be able to get all “Big 12” on opposing defenses. “Big 12” refers to the fact that Tennessee will be all pass-happy and play no defense. Not a good cocktail for success in the SEC. It is really pointless to let an opponent build a sustained offensive drive on you and eat 7 or 8 minutes off the clock; if you want the ball back faster just let the other team score. Using this strategy Tennessee will be a nightmare to game plan against.
Lou Groza Award nominee and fan favorite FG kicker Mike Palardy is coming back to win some more games for Tennessee. His head is clear and his powerful young leg is ready to amaze the most calloused Vols fan. Let’s be honest about the Tennessee kicking game and Palardy. Palardy was our 2011 offense after Hunter and Bray were injured. The Tennessee Kicking Game: A Game Changer.
The DL looks to be a bit better. What is mo’ better is that former DC Justin Wilcox left and took his ‘bend and break’ defensive scheme with him to the PAC-12. Good riddance. Former Bama assistant Sal Sunseri replaced Wilcox and for what I have heard Sunseri seems to be talking the talk. I guess we will see what a 3-4 scheme does to NCSU on 31 August.
This is the most experienced and talented Tennessee team in the last several years but I am having a hard time getting really optimistic or positive.
We still have huge questions marks about the running game; the offensive line couldn’t block a troop of girl scouts passing out cookies last year (116th in the run). QB Tyler Bray has never finished a full season and we still have real depth concerns at LB.
And then there is this weakness: Coach Derek Dooley. This rant below is lifted off of the 8th Maxim.com message board. I added a few of my thoughts to it, but the author nails it better than I could ever do it.
Drives program off one cliff to another, incites the ire of Eric Berry (and other Vols legends), goes into hiding after loss, compares us to Nazi’s, says the team doesn’t know how to properly shower, snaps the streak against Kentucky, allows the perception that Coach Milk Dud in Nashville has our number, loses 3/4 of staff after only his second season, cancels a game against mid-level ACC squad, gives a Nixon quote at SEC Media Days, that damned orange ceramic dog, moving practices to Milligan College, the 43 players he had on the field that cost us the LSU game the list just goes on and on…and then there’s this gem, reported by Quinn at KNS prior to taking podium SEC Media Days, when asked how he planned to approach his time:
“I’m not here to sell. It’s like that old song, ‘A Little Less Conversation, A Little LESS Action.’ That’s about where we are. Selling ain’t going to do me any good. We’ve got to go out and win.”
Clearly, in butchering his lyrics (it’s supposed to be MORE action) Dooley not only has a fundamental misunderstanding of either that song or his role as head coach, but he hates Elvis Presley.
Barring his shoving Peyton down a flight of stairs, poking fun of Pat Summit’s lagging memory or suggesting that Smokey should be replaced with a ferret, I’m honestly uncertain as to how the man’s mouth could wreak more havoc.
Games we’ll be small favorites to win (toss ups):
Games in which Tennessee will play the underdog role:
Game we’d have to play close to perfect to win:
I think Tennessee is on the verge of taking a step forward. There is enough talent on hand to win 8 games this season. The schedule is still SEC difficult, the four games against Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama appear to be likely losses on paper, but the Vols do get the Gators and the Crimson Tide at home and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vols upset someone this season. The other 8 games on the schedule are very winnable.
I believe Tennessee is a minimum 7 win team this season and think an 8-4 regular season isn’t out of the question. I will wager accordingly. Let me know what you think the Vols chances of winning at least 7 games this year are?