Mike Strange: Will opportunity be an egg or a bridge?

Mike Strange

Tennessee has earned its opportunity. As Derek Dooley said Wednesday, the Power T will be visible during bowl season.

But so far, an opportunity is all it is.

"You want 'em talking about you, you want 'em talking about you in a positive way,'' Dooley said on the eve of the Vols' opening bowl practice.

"The bowls can be a great thing or it can also be not so good. If you go out there and lay an egg, it ain't good for the program.''

Tennessee will lay either an egg or a bridge to the 2011 season on Dec. 30 against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

The Vols are a modest 3-6 in their nine bowl games since the 1998 national championship season. Anyone care for an omelette?

That momentous night in Arizona also is the last time they've beaten an Atlantic Coast Conference team in a bowl. They've since lost to Maryland, Clemson and, last year, Virginia Tech.

If ever a UT team could use a bowl victory to cap a year, this is it. The T on the helmet has stood for turmoil for three consecutive seasons, led by three different head coaches.

Of course, North Carolina is saying much the same thing.

Last August, the program was hit with a haymaker as agent-infraction issues roiled the college football landscape.

Fourteen Tar Heels missed at least one game due to suspensions arising from NCAA inquiries and seven missed the entire year.

So attrition and adversity are not strangers to either team prepping for Nashville.

"They've been through a whole lot, and we have, too,'' UT linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "It's gonna be two tough teams battling it out.''

North Carolina's 7-5 record suggests an opponent very much in Tennessee's niche. Yet that bottom line might be deceiving.

"As talented a team as I've seen all year on film,'' Dooley said. "They went through a lot of adversity that affected their results.

"Give their coaching staff credit for keeping 'em focused through a lot of distraction.''

Reveiz sees an offense well-stocked at the skill positions. Quarterback T.J. Yates completes 67 percent of his passes and has shattered 31 school records.

Luke Stocker, UT's senior tight end, sees a Tar Heel defense that has filled holes to rank 32nd in the nation in total defense and allow only 22.9 points per game.

"Their record doesn't speak to how good they really are," Stocker said.

At any rate, Tennessee has its work cut out. North Carolina is a 2- to 3-point favorite in most books.

Dooley has two weeks to make sure that's not what the scoreboard at LP Field reflects when time runs out on the 2010 season.

Qualifying for a bowl after the Vols started 2-6 is reason enough to celebrate. But the time for that celebration was immediately after the Nov. 27 win over Kentucky that allowed UT to meet the minimum bowl standard of 6-6.

Reveiz said the entire senior class convened that night at "an undisclosed location" (but not Bar Knoxville) to reflect on their careers, their season and the final chapter to be written in Nashville.

"This whole year,'' Reveiz said, "has been about trusting coach Dooley."

Now they have two more weeks to trust him.

"I'm not into the 'we go and it's a celebration' deal,'' Dooley said. "We have a game.

"We're going to go try to win a football game, just like they're going to do."

It's an opportunity - to lay an egg or a bridge.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 18

ConcreteVol writes:

Far be it from me to disagree with coach Dooley, but even if our Vols do go out and "lay an egg", I still think it would be a good experience for the team in general. The much needed extra practices if nothing else. It also will generate publicity for recruiting purposes. Just saying.

tombo7#479857 writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

OKEMO,

The alter-ego this ain't working for you. Be who you are.

dvols writes:

what irony....put together the off field transgessions of these two programs...a match made in music city..

SIMSVOL writes:

Fulmer is gone -our bowl game record will definitely turn around. Go VOLS!

RoadTrip writes:

I sincerely appreciate the seniors that have given their all for Tennessee. I have no doubts that the team will play well as this coaching staff knows that this is a statement game for key recruits on a national stage.

I am also looking forward to seeing the character of the team three years from now to see if the off-field player issues have been greatly reduced.

clvolfan writes:

in response to SIMSVOL:

Fulmer is gone -our bowl game record will definitely turn around. Go VOLS!

Well said brother,and if we go out and give our best and lose(which I don't expect),I certainly would not consider it "laying an egg". Someone should give an award for the fewest amount of players-maybe each one could receive a game ball with "2010" inscribed in gold.

volsoutwest writes:

in response to SIMSVOL:

Fulmer is gone -our bowl game record will definitely turn around. Go VOLS!

He was gone last year also. So?

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict:

Vols 20
NC 17

volhome writes:

in response to SIMSVOL:

Fulmer is gone -our bowl game record will definitely turn around. Go VOLS!

I'm always amazed how little time it takes FINE FOLKS like you to get on here and use any article to denegrate Coach Fulmer. You would think he came to your house and kicked your puppy or something. If you want to mention anything, why not mention Lane Kiffin's perfect bowl record while head coach at UT. Perfectly bad, admittedly, but still perfect.

And just for the record, CPF finished with an 8-7 Bowl record, beating Boston College, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Northwestern, Florida State, Michigan, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin. Not a bad list, if I do say so myself. For goodness sake, give it a rest, he's gone! Sheesh!

stompintheswamp2 writes:

in response to MOUNTAINofOKEMO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Geronimo Speaks.....

"me creative genius"

Geronimo has spoken....

rockytopjc22#1360044 writes:

I know this kinda off subject but Luke Stocker getting married on Sat so he has to miss practice. Hmm..to me that says that he or at least his girlfriend didn't have much confidence in UT making a bowl this year. Otherwise u think they would have planned it a lil later. Anyone else see it that way?

johnlg00 writes:

Some random thoughts on the UT-UNC matchup from the perspective of a Vol fan living in NC:

-UNC QB TJ Yates has been a record-setter this year, despite a very thin receiving corps. However, he CAN be pressured and he CAN turn the ball over.

-UNC's running game is bad; they are down to about their fourth-string RB. The O-line seems much better at pass-blocking than they are at run-blocking.

-The UNC defense has been pretty stout this year, but they have played against only a couple of really good offenses. A team which can possess the ball for long stretches can tire a defense SERIOUSLY weakened from all the attrition, both NCAA-related and injury-related.

-Bottom line: The Vols have a GREAT chance to get an impressive win to close out the year. UNC is dangerous but beatable. The team they COULD have had this year would have been pretty strong in any conference.

61NCVol writes:

in response to volhome:

I'm always amazed how little time it takes FINE FOLKS like you to get on here and use any article to denegrate Coach Fulmer. You would think he came to your house and kicked your puppy or something. If you want to mention anything, why not mention Lane Kiffin's perfect bowl record while head coach at UT. Perfectly bad, admittedly, but still perfect.

And just for the record, CPF finished with an 8-7 Bowl record, beating Boston College, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Northwestern, Florida State, Michigan, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin. Not a bad list, if I do say so myself. For goodness sake, give it a rest, he's gone! Sheesh!

Well said.

tmartin writes:

Any press is good press, right???

volboy81 writes:

in response to volhome:

I'm always amazed how little time it takes FINE FOLKS like you to get on here and use any article to denegrate Coach Fulmer. You would think he came to your house and kicked your puppy or something. If you want to mention anything, why not mention Lane Kiffin's perfect bowl record while head coach at UT. Perfectly bad, admittedly, but still perfect.

And just for the record, CPF finished with an 8-7 Bowl record, beating Boston College, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Northwestern, Florida State, Michigan, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin. Not a bad list, if I do say so myself. For goodness sake, give it a rest, he's gone! Sheesh!

AMEN! Coach Fulmer was a victim of his own success. He created a monster by raising our expectations for winning, then wasnt able to sustain it. Thank and appreciate him for a lot of wins and move on...

NashvillePreds writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Some random thoughts on the UT-UNC matchup from the perspective of a Vol fan living in NC:

-UNC QB TJ Yates has been a record-setter this year, despite a very thin receiving corps. However, he CAN be pressured and he CAN turn the ball over.

-UNC's running game is bad; they are down to about their fourth-string RB. The O-line seems much better at pass-blocking than they are at run-blocking.

-The UNC defense has been pretty stout this year, but they have played against only a couple of really good offenses. A team which can possess the ball for long stretches can tire a defense SERIOUSLY weakened from all the attrition, both NCAA-related and injury-related.

-Bottom line: The Vols have a GREAT chance to get an impressive win to close out the year. UNC is dangerous but beatable. The team they COULD have had this year would have been pretty strong in any conference.

Interesting.
Thanks for the insight.

fpcoach writes:

All UT fans should applaud coach Fulmer for what he meant to Tennessee football. 1998 was a great time and I'll never forget it.
Also, kudos to Simms for taking a beating this year and allowing CDD to get TB ready.
And thanks to the seniors for hanging in there and giving us fans something to look forward to.
GBO beat nc

FireJohnAdams writes:

in response to volhome:

I'm always amazed how little time it takes FINE FOLKS like you to get on here and use any article to denegrate Coach Fulmer. You would think he came to your house and kicked your puppy or something. If you want to mention anything, why not mention Lane Kiffin's perfect bowl record while head coach at UT. Perfectly bad, admittedly, but still perfect.

And just for the record, CPF finished with an 8-7 Bowl record, beating Boston College, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Northwestern, Florida State, Michigan, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin. Not a bad list, if I do say so myself. For goodness sake, give it a rest, he's gone! Sheesh!

agreed.... big time

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