John Adams: Vols have plenty to play for in November

John Adams

Tennessee wasn't good enough to beat South Carolina on Saturday. But it proved it's capable of beating anyone it plays in November.

Flash back to preseason when there was speculation as to how a program as successful as UT's might handle a 2-6 start. You might have got the answer you wanted Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.

After the Gamecocks scored quickly and easily off UT mistakes to take a 24-10 lead early in the third quarter, you could sense the beginning of a rout, much like the one which began in the third quarter a week earlier against Alabama. Instead, you had the Vols rallying to tie the game.

Although they weren't capable of finishing what they started, their resiliency in a 38-24 loss indicated they could have the wherewithal for another comeback. Just as they were being shoved toward the worst-case scenario predicted for them in preseason, the Vols made a game of it.

They also made a case for the games to come.

Four of UT's losses have come against nationally ranked teams - No. 1 Oregon, No. 5 Alabama, No. 12 LSU and No. 18 South Carolina. But following a predominantly uphill climb through the first two-thirds of the schedule, UT finally has reached a level playing field. No longer will it have to overcome an obvious talent disadvantage.

And based on the way it played in the third quarter at South Carolina, it's not ready to give up on the season.

As disheartened as it might be by a four-game losing streak, it shouldn't feel out of place during the November portion of its schedule. It will fit right in.

n Up next is Memphis, which, if not for winless Akron and New Mexico, could be touted as the worst team in the country. The only thing that separates the Tigers from the Zips and Lobos is one off Saturday on which it they mysteriously defeated Middle Tennessee State. In the last four games, Memphis has been outscored 201-13.

n Following Memphis is Ole Miss, which has lost three consecutive games and has two of the worst losses in the SEC - to Jacksonville State, and Vanderbilt.

n The Commodores have hit their stride since upsetting Ole Miss. They have dropped to 114th nationally in total offense and have lost three consecutive games by a combined score of 113-21.

n Kentucky fooled its fans with a 3-0 start but has since lost five of six games.

Much has been made of UT going 0-for-October, but its November opponents didn't exactly own the month. They were a combined 3-15.

UT fans might not get revved up at the possibility of winning out against four losing teams. But it beats the alternative.

And it would be especially meaningful to the players.

As bad as it this season has been, it could get significantly worse. These Vols still have the potential to lose more games than any other team in school history, go winless in the SEC, and end a 25-game winning streak against Kentucky. They also have a chance to finish the season on a winning streak, qualify for a bowl and have a winning record.

There's a big difference in the two scenarios. And that difference will be magnified in the years to come.

One month might not seem like much. But in a season gone wrong, that's enough time for a team to change how it's remembered.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2010 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 43

UTME06 writes:

"As bad as it this season has been, it could get significantly worse. These Vols still have the potential to lose more games than any other team in school history, go winless in the SEC, and end a 25-game winning streak against Kentucky. They also have a chance to finish the season on a winning streak, qualify for a bowl and have a winning record."

JA is only trying to make up for his 3 consecutive days of Vol bashing during Bama week with this article.

But the statement above is key to getting these guys to finish the season strong.

Our next 4 opponents are 3-15... wow. We are not very good, but we can hang with some of the best (for a while at least). No reason why we cant fulfill the pundits preseason prophecy...6-6 after a 2-6 start.

...We already have the first half in the bag at least...

UTME06 writes:

... If I had to guess though, we probably miss a bowl game. Here is hoping for only 7 in the L column, and 26 against KY. Those two records are really nice to have, and will be painful as heck to lose.

bspurlingcac#225603 writes:

Finish STRONG! We need the extra practice weeks getting ready for a bowl. Never give up! Go Vols!

DooleysOrangePants writes:

after the last couple of weeks. 6-6 with a bowl game/victory doesnt sound to bad. dont forget the saying they REMEMBER NOVEMBER. lets get it started with a big win over memphis saturday night. Vols 52 tiggers-10. GBO baby!

texasvol73 writes:

the key game is Ole Miss. They win that game, I think it builds momentum to win out and finish 6-6. They lose that game, and it could spiral to 3-9. How unreal would it be for THIS team to finish 6-6 and win the Independence Bowl to finish 7-6. Same record as the doofus at USC and with far less experience and depth. I'd tip my hat at that to Mr. Dooley! Let's go Vols!!

Vol_Fan_FromCanada03 writes:

I think it's very possible to win out the season. It looks like the Vols has corrected some errors they committed in the beginning of the season like illegal formation and too many men (except for Eric Gordon's fumblitis and Simm's time clock in his head while in the pocket) but hopefully Bray can start and gain some confidence with the Memphis game and use it toward Ole Miss. Kentucky makes me nervous but I think we have a big advantage playing them at home. It would be really nice to finish off the year and win a bowl game, which could lead to better recruiting come NSD. I'll be pulling for the Vols up here in Canada!! GBO!!

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Damn....There might be hope for you yet.....

rich182x writes:

I think If we play Tyler Bray for the whole game we could be looking at the next Payton Manning. I don't what it is, but I have good feelings about this kid. The way he was throwing against SC speaks volumes. Also, Simms hasn't put more than 13 points since UAB. But we all know that right?

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Speaking of Bray. Good arm. Good potential. Needs to work on mobility in the pocket. Goes down like a ton of bricks. Needs to be able to scramble about 70% better than he does now if he ever wants to be in the elite level...

VOLSGURLINCHARLOTTE writes:

Tennessee was good enough to beat the Gamecocks on Saturday but the mistakes killed us. As I was leaving Williams Brice on Saturday a SC fan said welcome to the club, get used to being mediocre. I told him no thanks we like winning much better than losing and we will get better in the years to come and I know we will. Go Big Orange!!

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

we can't go to a bowl, we could only have 5 wins against fbs opponents, ut martin doesn't count. but it would be nice to finish .500

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

oh wait never mind, kentucky did it in 08, probably play in the pizza bowl haha, that will actually say enough for this season.

tennvolsman19651965 writes:

We did something last weekend that we havent done against a FBS opponent yet. We played 3 quarters instead of just one half. I can see us putting an entire game together before the season ends. Hopefully we can see the Vols put together four solid quarter in the next four games. It would give the kids something to build on. I still believe that the LSU game took the wind out of a young fiesty Volunteer team, or we would be looking at a bowl game this year.

CroKev writes:

A little off subject but I'm betting Oregon and TCU play for the national title. Oregon will win out (only #15 Az stands in their way; no league championship game) and if TCU gets by #8 Utah this weekend, then they'll be there. If TCU loses, then Boise State enters the game (no ranked opponents left). I just cannot see Auburn beating Bama in Tuscaloosa. Thus, this will be one of the least watched NC games in recent memory as the power-house 1-loss teams are relegated to lesser bowls. Should be a snoozer... Playoff system anyone?

VOLinATL writes:

One win against Div 1-AA does count, so the UT-Martin game is OK. Didn't we end up 7-6 last year? Would be quite a coup if that comes to pass this year.

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

the sec has 7 games in bowls, including the bcs game, 10 teams will probably be bowl eligible, so a few 6-6 teams are going to get left out, but the acc has 8 games, but they will probably only have 6 or 7 teams eligible. Its possible for tennessee to get to a bowl game, but if we do we have the chance to go 6-7, would you rather finish 6-6 or 6-7, or wtf am I even talking about, who cares, if we go great, if not, great, Im looking forward to spring practice

Fryinpansvols writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

we can't go to a bowl, we could only have 5 wins against fbs opponents, ut martin doesn't count. but it would be nice to finish .500

Actually we can make a bowl if we win out. Thats a big if, however you can count one win against a FCS school. GBO and win the rest of your games starting against Memphis!

EMBuckles writes:

Just objectively speculating, here, I can't help wondering what sort of record the Vols would have now if Coach Fulmer had continued on as head coach with no break in his system. Anyway, I hope that the Vols do finish out the year strong continuing to build for next year. And one does have to remember that Tennessee annually faces teams which are usually excellent, a punishing schedule. In a number of other conferences, the Vols would probably already have a winning season and be going on to a bowl game.

brod writes:

6-6 would be nice, but i don't see ut beating kentucky. the lsu debacle killed their bowl chances.

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to CroKev:

A little off subject but I'm betting Oregon and TCU play for the national title. Oregon will win out (only #15 Az stands in their way; no league championship game) and if TCU gets by #8 Utah this weekend, then they'll be there. If TCU loses, then Boise State enters the game (no ranked opponents left). I just cannot see Auburn beating Bama in Tuscaloosa. Thus, this will be one of the least watched NC games in recent memory as the power-house 1-loss teams are relegated to lesser bowls. Should be a snoozer... Playoff system anyone?

I'm with ya, CK. I wouldn't be interested enough to watch the Ducks vs the Frogs or Horses. I've been lobbying for a playoff system since day one. Also, I believe it would generate more $ than the current BCS system. JMO

skol writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

I'm with ya, CK. I wouldn't be interested enough to watch the Ducks vs the Frogs or Horses. I've been lobbying for a playoff system since day one. Also, I believe it would generate more $ than the current BCS system. JMO

You guys may not be interested, but it is a national championship game. If TCU gets in, which I'd love, but doubt, it'd get a great national audience - best team in the state of Texas out of major media market. The ratings would be fine and a good poke in the eye to the East Coast snobs.

A real snoozer? Anything with Ohio State or LSU in it.

maciste54 writes:

Don't count your chickens before........ I hope this team will realize to take each opponent coming up seriously. I see a lot of "easy" win mentality from the media and fans lately. Nothing has come easy for the Vols and they have shown all to clearly to be a team that makes critical mistakes at the worst possible times. Even Memphis can beat them if they have the idea that the Tigers will lay down for them next week. If they want to win out they better turn up the intensity even higher.

finn writes:

Going into halftime, CDD talked about mental stamina and toughness for 60 mins. 3 mins into the 2nd half, it looked like the implosion was underway. The fact that they dug in and clawed their way back from a potential blow-out said a lot about this team. A lot of fans are upset at the record. How do you think the players feel? The fact that they refuse to give up is a big silver lining of what everyone agreed would be a rough season.

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to maciste54:

Don't count your chickens before........ I hope this team will realize to take each opponent coming up seriously. I see a lot of "easy" win mentality from the media and fans lately. Nothing has come easy for the Vols and they have shown all to clearly to be a team that makes critical mistakes at the worst possible times. Even Memphis can beat them if they have the idea that the Tigers will lay down for them next week. If they want to win out they better turn up the intensity even higher.

I certainly don't think there are 'easy' wins ahead of us, but I do think our odds are much better after a brutal October schedule.

utfpmd writes:

Time to turn the page. The worst time in TN football history is now over. Kiffin is gone, the October from Hades is behind us, and brighter days are ahead.

I feel like I am getting over a really bad stomach virus.

ekvolunteer writes:

Something else to play for is if UT wins out, and Georgia loses to Auburn and Georgia Tech (very possible IMO), then UT finishes alone at 3rd in division standings ahead of georgia, due to georgia's 5-7 overall record. Wouldn't mind finishing in the top half of the division.

Mule_Days_King writes:

Heading to Crime City on Friday night. Hope to see TigerDan to shake his hand. Bringing him a special gift from Mule Town: a giftwrapped mule biscuit with a nice orange bow tied around it.

murrayvol writes:

I remember November 1988....most of it anyway. Make it happen.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Doubt we get to a bowl..A lot of people discount Ole Miss who isn't playing that bad and KY has a very good offense..In the end it is our defense that must win these games

POTSVol (Inactive) writes:

I remember reading an article before the start of the season and it stated that there will possibly be a few teams with losing records able to make it to a couple bowl games. I think we'll get to 6-6 and be ready for whatever bowl game we land. Probably back to Memphis or Nashville.

TennVol01 writes:

I would like for the Coach to give the freshman QB four games of experience. Start Bray and let him get better and better. He will make mistakes, but let him make them now. Simms has proven that he is good and can take hits, but he does not have the arm Bray has. With Poole stumbling along now, the only offense is the passing game. Bray has three more years of eligibility. Simms only one. If you have two equal quarterbacks ... one a freshman and the other in his third year...which one will get better, and which one has peaked as just an average QB????

Bray was a three sport super athlete in high school. We need a pure athlete to lead our team these last four games and for the next three years.

The7Maxims writes:

I got my tickets for the Memphis game: the only game I get to see in person since I live in Little Rock. This would be a good game to start building confidence. I think we'll have a fighting chance against Old Musk, but Masoli is a beast. Hopefully, we can lean on a stronger running game against one of the weaker defensive lines in the SEC (they lost their best DLineman early in the season). Vandy should be a win, and Kentucky is going to be tough. But, it all starts with Memphis. We need to beat them soundly so I'll have a reason to sober up.

utfpmd writes:

in response to myfollower#555763:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Completely agree. Well said.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to EMBuckles:

Just objectively speculating, here, I can't help wondering what sort of record the Vols would have now if Coach Fulmer had continued on as head coach with no break in his system. Anyway, I hope that the Vols do finish out the year strong continuing to build for next year. And one does have to remember that Tennessee annually faces teams which are usually excellent, a punishing schedule. In a number of other conferences, the Vols would probably already have a winning season and be going on to a bowl game.

Objectively, we might have had a few more wins (LSU, SC or UF maybe) just based on Chavis being the DC. No idea where a Clawson offense would have been at this point even with Tajd (sp?) Boyd. The number of recruited linemen that never even made it to campus is what is hurting UT regardless of who the coach is.

givehim6 writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

we can't go to a bowl, we could only have 5 wins against fbs opponents, ut martin doesn't count. but it would be nice to finish .500

Who do you think we will lose too? You said UT can't go to a bowl. We have 2 wins if we win our next four that's 6 enough to be bowl eligible. I think out of the next 4 UK makes me the most nerves UK most always plays us tough but with our depth problems well not sure about this year.

VOLinBirmingham writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

oh wait never mind, kentucky did it in 08, probably play in the pizza bowl haha, that will actually say enough for this season.

Would love to see them come to Birmingham and play in a bowl game this year. Go Vols...4 more wins this year.

Did yall see the almost empty stadium for USC vs Oregon Saturday? Glad the Ducks won that game!

justincredible369#357762 writes:

in response to hcjournals#206623:

Speaking of Bray. Good arm. Good potential. Needs to work on mobility in the pocket. Goes down like a ton of bricks. Needs to be able to scramble about 70% better than he does now if he ever wants to be in the elite level...

Unlike simms i remember a couple of times when bray moved in the pocket, avoided a sack and completed the pass

archstanton98 writes:

I agree with starting Bray. He's got tons of potential, and as many have pointed out, Simms didn't do himself any favors with his sour-grapes comments. Being disappointed about getting pulled is understandable, but making silly excuses ("I didn't turn the ball over, except those fumbles" and "it wasn't my fault - I got hit and dropped the ball") shows he's not ready to accept responsibility for failure. Contrast that with Bray, who said, "Yeah, I missed the DE going into coverage - that was my fault" and came back and led us to 2 more TDs. Bray's our man. Simms is good, but I think he got a bit of entitlement in his head. Not starting may cure that and could help him be a better QB.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to texasvol73:

the key game is Ole Miss. They win that game, I think it builds momentum to win out and finish 6-6. They lose that game, and it could spiral to 3-9. How unreal would it be for THIS team to finish 6-6 and win the Independence Bowl to finish 7-6. Same record as the doofus at USC and with far less experience and depth. I'd tip my hat at that to Mr. Dooley! Let's go Vols!!

If we get to 6-6, Music City won't be able to sign us fast enough. We and Kentucky are the only two SEC schools that could sell that one out - we because Nashville is still a UT town and at this point, we are desperate, and Kentucky because they are, well, always desperate. Just don't know if a team this young and beat down can play 4 games in a row consistently enough to win them all. Even though the level of competition is certainly manageable, we just don't have the talent edge we need to play even an average game and win, especially against Ole Miss or Kentucky. Hopefully things will work out for something good this year but I'm still skeptical at this point. Looking at the schedule at the start of the year, I felt the Ole Miss game was the critical one as well. Win it, and we probably go bowling.

Also love your point about USC. "Fans" are busting Dooley's chops about our team and his coaching job. Yet, we lose to Oregon by 35 at home and USC loses by 21 at home. The Trojans should have at least 2 touchdown's worth of a talent differential over us, wouldn't you say? And folks say Kiffin could be doing better with this team? Really? You couldn't see his coaching "genius" last Saturday against Oregon. Go Vols!!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

we can't go to a bowl, we could only have 5 wins against fbs opponents, ut martin doesn't count. but it would be nice to finish .500

You're allowed one FCS (or less) win every three years against the bowl required 6 wins. We'll definitely use that loophole this year - I hope! Go Vols!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to RockyToptoNeyland:

the sec has 7 games in bowls, including the bcs game, 10 teams will probably be bowl eligible, so a few 6-6 teams are going to get left out, but the acc has 8 games, but they will probably only have 6 or 7 teams eligible. Its possible for tennessee to get to a bowl game, but if we do we have the chance to go 6-7, would you rather finish 6-6 or 6-7, or wtf am I even talking about, who cares, if we go great, if not, great, Im looking forward to spring practice

We have nine bowl tie-ins this year: BCS, Capital One, Outback, Cotton, Gator (new this year), Peach, Music City, Liberty, and Independence. We lost Papa Johns in Birmingham. If we get two to the BCS (unlikely), that makes 10. If we win out, depending on Kentucky and Georgia, we will have 10 bowl eligible teams max (Ole Miss and Vandy are essentially eliminated looking at their schedules). We could have as few as 7, which is pitiful. The bowl is one thing but those extra practices sure would be nice. Go Vols!!!

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to CroKev:

A little off subject but I'm betting Oregon and TCU play for the national title. Oregon will win out (only #15 Az stands in their way; no league championship game) and if TCU gets by #8 Utah this weekend, then they'll be there. If TCU loses, then Boise State enters the game (no ranked opponents left). I just cannot see Auburn beating Bama in Tuscaloosa. Thus, this will be one of the least watched NC games in recent memory as the power-house 1-loss teams are relegated to lesser bowls. Should be a snoozer... Playoff system anyone?

Don't know about Tuscaloosa but considering Florida will probably beat South Carolina, Auburn would have to beat pass-happy and surging Georgia and A.J. Green, Saban's brutal defense and Julio Jones at Alabama, and wakening offensive juggernaut Florida in consecutive weeks, the last two away from the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare. I agree, that's a tall order, especially with their complete lack of pass defense. We'll see.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Vols have no business in a bowl game...for some reason the Volunteers have never really played well in but a few bowls in their long history. Get ready for Spring practice guys, work out on your own...lots of running and lifting weights. A bowl loss would be bad. Ole Miss is clear favorite in Vegas.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features