Adams: November games a blessing for Vols

John Adams
Charlie Daniel draws UT vs. South Carolina.

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Charlie Daniel draws UT vs. South Carolina.

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The Tennessee-South Carolina game traditionally has been about the start of something.

For UT, it often has been the start of a charge down the stretch that led to a bowl invitation. For South Carolina, it often has provided the first drop in altitude for the nosedive to come.

That's why it's difficult to imagine the Vols are a long shot to qualify for a bowl and the Gamecocks are leading the SEC East. The matchup seldom has looked so topsy-turvy.

The Gamecocks have proved under coach Steve Spurrier that they can beat the Vols. They also have proved they can compete with the best teams in the SEC on an occasional Saturday.

But since South Carolina joined the SEC, it never has played in the SEC championship game. That's what makes Saturday's game so different for the Gamecocks.

They aren't just trying to win their second game in the last three years against the Vols. They're trying to win a championship. If they can beat UT and Florida, they will win the East, regardless of what happens against Arkansas.

All they need is what they rarely have had: a strong finishing kick.

In 1992, South Carolina's first year in the SEC, it beat UT and won three of its last four regular-season games. That wasn't a sign of things to come.

In the last 18 years, South Carolina is 23-49 in its last four regular-season games. Five times during that stretch, it went 0-4.

Those records reflect more than the Gamecocks' inability to finish what they started. Their schedule has been tilted heavily toward the back end - burdened with UT and Florida, who dominated the division in the 1990s, in the last four games.

The schedule has had just as much to do with UT's late-season success since the league went to divisional play. The Vols have been blessed with November games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Throw in a number of pedestrian South Carolina teams and an occasional Memphis or Memphis look-alike and you can better understand UT's 60-12 record in its last four regular-season games since 1992.

Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Memphis are still on the November schedule. So is Ole Miss, the worst team in the West.

As accommodating as that might have looked in most seasons, it's not as inviting now. Even though UT's last four opponents have a combined record of 10-19, you have to wonder whether the Vols will be too beaten down or beat up to make this a typical November.

Selected statistics can be encouraging.

UT recently has been especially vulnerable to competent passing teams. Memphis, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt all rank 75th or worse in passing yards per game.

"And Kentucky?" you ask.

You don't want to know.

Although UT has struggled to produce a consistent running game, Tauren Poole rushed for more than 100 yards against Alabama. Couple that with the probability a young offensive line will improve down the stretch and you might envision the Vols running their way to a bowl bid, particularly if you check the appropriate statistics. Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky all rank 89th or worse in run defense.

"And Ole Miss?"

You don't want to know.

But UT's recent record against its last four opponents is worth remembering. The Vols have won 25 consecutive games against Kentucky, are 21-1 all-time versus Memphis, have won 26 of their last 27 against Vanderbilt and have won 12 of their last 13 against Ole Miss.

Something else worth remembering: In 1988, UT lost its first six games and won it's last five. Four of those victories were against Memphis, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

That's why - as bad as this team has looked in losing five of its first seven games - I still have a hotel reservation in Birmingham for the first week of January.

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 15

Denvervol4life writes:

We ain't going bowling....you can bet that

volbike writes:

Only Ohio State and UT have never lost 8 games in one season.

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are so predictable Duke. Fulmer is gone, get over him. Jim Haslem likes Hamilton, so get over that too. And FYI, Spurrier was offered teh job at UT and turned it down. Have a great day dreaming about the Great Pumpkin

bristolvol writes:

We aren't at La Tech anymore Toto

TommyJack writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Phillip Hyams! Give it a rest.

rudy123 writes:

in response to Denvervol4life:

We ain't going bowling....you can bet that

We played LSU tough and they also helped to give us a few breaks. If we can get a similar game and beat USC, then Memphis, Ole Miss, Vandy and Ky. That will be 7 wins and we are in. If we lose to USC and win the others, then we will have 6 wins and COULD qualify for a bowl game.
We travel well and a 6-6 record could get us in a bowl game.

koamalina writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Forget the 10 win seasons; look at the win percentages.
Year Wins Losses %
1993 10 2 0.833
1994 8 4 0.667
1995 11 1 0.917
1996 10 2 0.833
1997 11 2 0.846
1998 13 0 1.000
1999 9 3 0.750
2000 8 4 0.667
2001 11 2 0.846
2002 8 5 0.615
2003 10 3 0.769
2004 10 3 0.769
2005 5 7 0.417
2006 9 4 0.692
2007 10 4 0.714
2008 5 7 0.417
The win percentage was showing a steady downward trend after ~2000. You can see it with a 4 year moving average trendline (corresponds to eligibility of players) or a polynomial trendline. It is simple to plot on a spreadsheet (since it can't be pasted here). The 10 win seasons weren't going to be here with Fulmer either. It was time for a change, and I agree with you that Hamilton's choice of Kiffin was a poor one.

VOLliven2it writes:

With our young team we do not know who will show up nor how they will show up any week. SCar. has an opportunity to make a statement this weekend. We, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. I'd love to see us pull out all stops and go for it. Simms, Bray, Gerald Jones, Nance Nash; I don't care who qbacks. I just want us to get it done. That's a tall task and our defense would have to really step it up too. If we put in a good effort, we can have a chance in the final 4 games and make Nov. a good memory for 2010. At 6-6, I would not care if we didn't make a bowl but who can tell how it all washes out?
As for the SEC East, that WILL come down to the FL, SC game and I for one would rather the old ball coach go than a continuation of the Urban myth in Gatorland. I do not think the eastern winner has much of a chance against Bama, Aub. or whomever. Many games are yet to come. Who knows what other surprises may be on the horizon?

orangeman1 writes:

in response to koamalina:

Forget the 10 win seasons; look at the win percentages.
Year Wins Losses %
1993 10 2 0.833
1994 8 4 0.667
1995 11 1 0.917
1996 10 2 0.833
1997 11 2 0.846
1998 13 0 1.000
1999 9 3 0.750
2000 8 4 0.667
2001 11 2 0.846
2002 8 5 0.615
2003 10 3 0.769
2004 10 3 0.769
2005 5 7 0.417
2006 9 4 0.692
2007 10 4 0.714
2008 5 7 0.417
The win percentage was showing a steady downward trend after ~2000. You can see it with a 4 year moving average trendline (corresponds to eligibility of players) or a polynomial trendline. It is simple to plot on a spreadsheet (since it can't be pasted here). The 10 win seasons weren't going to be here with Fulmer either. It was time for a change, and I agree with you that Hamilton's choice of Kiffin was a poor one.

I'm not sure why you think because % went down that somehow conludes that UT wouldnt have any 10 wins seasons under Fulmer. Didnt your breakdown show he had 3 ten win seasons in the last 6 years? Didnt it show he had a ten win season the year before he got fired? I also noticed that Fulmer NEVER went more than 1 year without winning at least 9 games even during his down year from 05 to 08.
Anyway, UT has gone 2 years in a row without Fulmer and havent won even 8 games. Fulmer only won less than 8 games 2x in 16 years. I personally think Fulmer wouldve had the Vols competing for the SEC by now if given the chance. He's proved he could make changes in the past to get UT back competing for titles so I dont know what makes you so sure he couldnt have done it again. Either way kiffin was a bad hire and Dooley has a tough job , but hopefully he can get UT winning championships on a regular basis like UT fans expect. With today climate in college football it wont be easy.

CrankE writes:

"I still have a hotel reservation in Birmingham for the first week of January."

Is that the annual hook-up between you and Finebaum to ...uh, compare notes?

WillieGualt writes:

in response to koamalina:

Forget the 10 win seasons; look at the win percentages.
Year Wins Losses %
1993 10 2 0.833
1994 8 4 0.667
1995 11 1 0.917
1996 10 2 0.833
1997 11 2 0.846
1998 13 0 1.000
1999 9 3 0.750
2000 8 4 0.667
2001 11 2 0.846
2002 8 5 0.615
2003 10 3 0.769
2004 10 3 0.769
2005 5 7 0.417
2006 9 4 0.692
2007 10 4 0.714
2008 5 7 0.417
The win percentage was showing a steady downward trend after ~2000. You can see it with a 4 year moving average trendline (corresponds to eligibility of players) or a polynomial trendline. It is simple to plot on a spreadsheet (since it can't be pasted here). The 10 win seasons weren't going to be here with Fulmer either. It was time for a change, and I agree with you that Hamilton's choice of Kiffin was a poor one.

A couple of home games ago, there was a statistic posted on the jumbo-tron (sp) which stated that "UT had the highest winning precentage of any team in the country since 1926". That's 84 years! I know we have had some really good winning percentage in the 30's, 50's, 60's and 90's, but I wonder if this is true?

koamalina writes:

in response to orangeman1:

I'm not sure why you think because % went down that somehow conludes that UT wouldnt have any 10 wins seasons under Fulmer. Didnt your breakdown show he had 3 ten win seasons in the last 6 years? Didnt it show he had a ten win season the year before he got fired? I also noticed that Fulmer NEVER went more than 1 year without winning at least 9 games even during his down year from 05 to 08.
Anyway, UT has gone 2 years in a row without Fulmer and havent won even 8 games. Fulmer only won less than 8 games 2x in 16 years. I personally think Fulmer wouldve had the Vols competing for the SEC by now if given the chance. He's proved he could make changes in the past to get UT back competing for titles so I dont know what makes you so sure he couldnt have done it again. Either way kiffin was a bad hire and Dooley has a tough job , but hopefully he can get UT winning championships on a regular basis like UT fans expect. With today climate in college football it wont be easy.

I apologize. I shouldn't have said that the 10 win seasons wouldn't have been here with Fulmer, but that the trend indicates that the likelihood of 10 win seasons, even with Fulmer, is not favorable. I was only plotting win percentage during Fulmer's tenure, but I am sure that adding 2009 and 2010 to the data would show a further decline. It is unfortunate that I can't post the actual data plot because it shows the trendlines much better than trying to describe them.
Could Fulmer have turned it around? We will never know. But it would have required him to hire an OC that was talented and had autonomy to do his job. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had Auburn's OC along with Fulmer's final staff. For now, we need to support the team and Dooley because they are what we have, and long term it's about Tennessee Football and not being a fan of this coach or that player because coaches and players come and go, but Tennessee Football lives on.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to koamalina:

I apologize. I shouldn't have said that the 10 win seasons wouldn't have been here with Fulmer, but that the trend indicates that the likelihood of 10 win seasons, even with Fulmer, is not favorable. I was only plotting win percentage during Fulmer's tenure, but I am sure that adding 2009 and 2010 to the data would show a further decline. It is unfortunate that I can't post the actual data plot because it shows the trendlines much better than trying to describe them.
Could Fulmer have turned it around? We will never know. But it would have required him to hire an OC that was talented and had autonomy to do his job. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had Auburn's OC along with Fulmer's final staff. For now, we need to support the team and Dooley because they are what we have, and long term it's about Tennessee Football and not being a fan of this coach or that player because coaches and players come and go, but Tennessee Football lives on.

Agree totally, all that is in the past and we can only speculate about what might have happened. GO VOLS

Colliervol writes:

in response to VolnotHAMILTONfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Please do not use the term "we". You are not part of the club.

Colliervol writes:

in response to koamalina:

Forget the 10 win seasons; look at the win percentages.
Year Wins Losses %
1993 10 2 0.833
1994 8 4 0.667
1995 11 1 0.917
1996 10 2 0.833
1997 11 2 0.846
1998 13 0 1.000
1999 9 3 0.750
2000 8 4 0.667
2001 11 2 0.846
2002 8 5 0.615
2003 10 3 0.769
2004 10 3 0.769
2005 5 7 0.417
2006 9 4 0.692
2007 10 4 0.714
2008 5 7 0.417
The win percentage was showing a steady downward trend after ~2000. You can see it with a 4 year moving average trendline (corresponds to eligibility of players) or a polynomial trendline. It is simple to plot on a spreadsheet (since it can't be pasted here). The 10 win seasons weren't going to be here with Fulmer either. It was time for a change, and I agree with you that Hamilton's choice of Kiffin was a poor one.

Don't bore them with facts. Most won't understand it. Just to make it easier, let's break it down 50/50, first 8 years and last 8 years. Fulmer only lost 4 games twice in his first 8 years and that was the most games lost in a year. He lost 4 games or more FIVE times in his last 8 years including two 7 loss seasons in his last 4 years. Nothing else needs to be said.

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