Coach Derek Dooley on the first practice of fall camp
Preseason football is predictable. It's hot, grueling and sometimes sufficiently oppressive to make all-around athletes second guess themselves for not focusing more on baseball or basketball.
That's one reason I doubt this season will go according to form. The other reason? The Vols.
They're as overdue as their coach for an upset. Both have the near upsets to prove it.
In 2009, Dooley's last year at Louisiana Tech, his team won only four of 12 games. But for three consecutive games, against some of the best teams on their schedule, the Bulldogs almost overcame the odds.
As a 20-point underdog to fifth-ranked Boise State, they lost by only 10. A week later in Tiger Stadium, they came within eight points of LSU, which was a 22-point favorite. The next week, they lost 30-28 on the road against Fresno State, a nine-point favorite.
There's more evidence of Dooley's teams excelling in an underdog role. In 2008, Louisiana Tech went 8-5, thanks to back-to-back upset victories over Fresno State and San Jose State, and another upset victory in the season opener against Mississippi State.
None of Dooley's teams over-achieved more than his first Louisiana Tech team did in its second game. Oddsmakers favored Hawaii to win by 28 points. They were 27 points off.
Hawaii escaped with a 45-44 overtime victory, its closest call in a 12-0 regular season. Louisiana Tech finished 5-7.
The Vols have gone about as long as Dooley without an upset. Their last upset victory was a 20-10 victory over Vanderbilt, which was a three-point favorite in the second-to-last game of the 2008 season.
But like Dooley, the Vols have come tantalizingly close. In 2009, Lane Kiffin's only season as coach, UT lost 12-10 to eventual national champion Alabama.
As close as the Vols came in that near upset, they came even closer last year against LSU.
The Alabama game ended on the last play. The LSU game ended after the last play. The Tigers, who were favored by 16 points, scored following a penalty for a 16-14 victory.
If you're looking for another reason to believe UT will upset someone, check the schedule. It will provide plenty of opportunities. The Vols likely will be underdogs in half of their games — against Florida, Georgia, LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas.
They're due to win at least one of them.