John Adams: Thin line between 6 and 8

John Adams

The great debate is often six and eight. You can hear it almost any day on sports-talk shows in Knoxville.

Occasionally, some Tennessee fan will split the difference and predict a 7-5 regular season for the Vols. You can hear from extremists, too. Wild-eyed optimists will predict nine victories. Purveyors of gloom will predict five.

And sometimes between now and UT's opening kickoff, at least one lost soul will predict the Vols to win the SEC championship. Why? Because he has "a feeling."

A similar debate is being waged elsewhere in this corner of the country, where college football has long reigned supreme. It's as predictable as the rising temperatures. It's also a reminder of football's three seasons.

There's the regular season and spring football. There's fantasy football in the summer. It's often the most pleasant of the three.

So what if others refute your prediction with a preponderance of logic. They can refute it but they can't disprove it. Only games can do that.

If you aren't swayed by your rooting interest, UT's upcoming season seems as predictable as its last, which ended 6-6 before a bowl loss dropped the Vols below .500.

Look at the SEC schedule, which includes the three best teams from the West, and the depth chart, which has nowhere near the star power of the better teams in the league. The lack of talent and depth on defense is particularly glaring in a conference renowned for throttling offenses.

But history provides a counterpoint to such predictability. Even in a conference as demanding as this one, surprising success occurs often enough to spike preseason optimism.

Auburn is the most recent example. It went from 8-5 in 2009 and predictions for more of the same to 14-0 and a national championship in 2010.

The Tigers have had a greater transformation than that. After back-to-back season of 5-6 and 5-5-1 in 1991 and 1992, Auburn coach Pat Dye was replaced by Terry Bowden. A year later, Bowden took basically the same players who couldn't win more than they lost under Dye and went 11-0.

Such unexpected success is most often traced to a coaching change or the emergence of an outstanding quarterback or running back. Less often, you see teams develop a certain chemistry that enables them to defy preseason odds and raise their play above their supposed level of talent .

UT hasn't had a coaching change - for a change. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray showed promise in the last third of the season and running back Tauren Poole, coming off a solid season, should be more productive behind an experienced offensive line. But if the Vols are to win more than six games, their improvement likely will be a collective effort, rather than star-driven.

Team chemistry is harder to identify than talent. It's something that must be seen, rather than heard. After all, what team doesn't profess great camaraderie in preseason?

There's reason to believe this team will at least be motivated. Football is a tough enough game when you are winning. The fourth-year seniors on this team already have lost 20 games, have never won more than seven games in a season, have yet to win a bowl game and haven't beaten Florida or Alabama.

The Vols need more than motivation. They need the confidence that comes from a significant victory, which they haven't achieved since they donned those scandalous black jerseys and defeated nationally ranked South Carolina 31-13 in 2009. And the sooner, the better.

That's why the Sept. 17 game with Florida might be the most important of the season. It's a game the Vols are capable of winning. If they do, they might gain enough confidence to pull off another upset.

And the fans on the high side of the six-eight debate might be right.

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

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Comments » 39

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

It's all speculation. No one knows much of anything at this point. This is why people guess at the games in July and hope for the best in September.

We can have hundreds of different predictions from ourselves and even the sports writers. That's what makes reading papers and magazines
plus listening to the experts a really interesting endeavor.

Probably every team feels similarly.
Only time will tell..........

tenndave writes:

The O line is better. The QB is better, the Running backs are loaded. Offense better

D Line is a ?, Linebackers ? D backs loaded.

Can Freshmen play?

Team will be better overall so 8-4 is probable if coaches do any kind of job like they did last year with steady growth.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

We need to start beating Florida.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to bartlett79:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hoo Hoo bartlett for President

CroKev writes:

Look, it's certainly possible that we'll beat UF but let's remember that they're loaded (remember the last 3 or 4 recruiting classes). Yes, they have a whole new scheme on both sides of the ball with the new coaches but Weiss is a much better OC than HC. The two most important factors are that UT is 70% Freshmen & Sophomores and that the game will be played in the Swamp. UF will probably be a 7 point favorite against UT unless they struggle with either Florida Atlantic or UAB (anybody remember them last year?) before getting the Vols.

Bottom line, we have more than a fair chance of beating them but we certainly won't be favored that day. I actually like our odds better against LSU at home but if I had my choice, I'd rather beat the Gators.

SEC1 writes:

jelani jenkins , jon bostic,ronald powell will blitz slash all the way back to knoxville, slash will say montana did'nt have guys that big and fast

DannyVol writes:

Keep crowing while you still can, Florida fans. Pretty soon, it'll be "remember when" down there. Too bad for y'all that you ran off two great coaches in-a-row with unrealistic expectations that translated into: "they don't appreciate me."

SummittsCourt writes:

Will win: Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Should win: Georgia, Kentucky

Might win: Florida, SC

Probalby want win: LSU, Alabama, Arkansas

Despite the weaker non-conference schedule (thanks hammy) the SEC schedule is as always brutal (minus vandy & KY).

However, I am optimistic that the Vols can win 8 games this year parring any major injuries to the starters. Who knows, as the season progresses and improvement comes, maybe even 9 wins and a good bowl game on top. It can happen.

doh writes:

What is sad is this team will be better than last years team but might end up with the same record. The SEC is brutal again. The 3 teams from the west are good that we play. I just want to see improvement this year and I think that will happen. 2012 is our year.

jack_2222#231746 writes:

Get off the nebulous win/loss speculation and look for improvement in all areas from game management to tackling to special teams. The wins will take care of themselves. Expect Tennessee to begin to look like Tennessee again.

TKO writes:

SHould be a ompetitive year, but I have South Carolina and Arkansas in the SECCG.

sjackson#227599 writes:

in response to tenndave:

The O line is better. The QB is better, the Running backs are loaded. Offense better

D Line is a ?, Linebackers ? D backs loaded.

Can Freshmen play?

Team will be better overall so 8-4 is probable if coaches do any kind of job like they did last year with steady growth.

The D backs and running backs loaded????? I don't think so.

HsvAVol writes:

in response to jack_2222#231746:

Get off the nebulous win/loss speculation and look for improvement in all areas from game management to tackling to special teams. The wins will take care of themselves. Expect Tennessee to begin to look like Tennessee again.

A cool head responds to the subject; thanks

orangeman1 writes:

8 wins is a fair expectation with a bowl. Anything less will be a disappointment to me personally.

okievol1 writes:

All I want for Christmas is a bowl game. Any bowl. Its a tough schedule period. Well if I really could get into Santa's ear it would be a Vol win at the swamp and a bowl victory. That would do it for me this year. Progress.....just some progress and I will be happy.

PHAT_VOL writes:

The most important game is the next game. Lose to Montana or Cincy and what does that create? Beating a lesser program and its, "They should have won" or they didn't win by enough. But loose to them and we all know what happens. Remember Duke, North Texas St. or Wyoming. So take'm one at a time. The Next Game is the most important. We wont beat Florida or Alabama. Maybe Georgia South Carolina or LSU. GO VOLS !!

AC_84 writes:

what does he mean "scandalous black jerseys"? i liked the black jerseys it gave the team a swag and i beleive alot of recruits of this generation would like them. i wouldnt wanna see em on in everygame just every now and then. becouse i love my orange

SEC1 writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

The most important game is the next game. Lose to Montana or Cincy and what does that create? Beating a lesser program and its, "They should have won" or they didn't win by enough. But loose to them and we all know what happens. Remember Duke, North Texas St. or Wyoming. So take'm one at a time. The Next Game is the most important. We wont beat Florida or Alabama. Maybe Georgia South Carolina or LSU. GO VOLS !!

no way you lose to montana but the bearcats would concern me with their no-huddle spread attack offense with 3 big east players in qb zach collaros,rb isaiah pead,wr armon binns, which could be a problem come the 3rd and 4th qt if the vols can't find at least 3 to 4 d-line to rotate. fatigue could be an issue for the anorexia like d-line the vols have since huges,sykes,walls won't be ready to go.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Looks like a 7 win season to me..Would be great to to end the gator streak..So many questions to be answered with such a young team..The GA and ARK game are important since we match up well.Losing Lathers till November with his 76 tackles hurts bad but I expect Malik Jackson to have a monster season..I fully expect our OLine to be a strong point..Chaney got way to pass happy last year and a return to the traditional UT power run game is long over due!!!Hopefully our thin front seven can be injury free..Are Hunter and DaRick ready to be #1 WR's???Gerald played well and Moore had some great games last year..I could go on and on but at the very least this team is now confident and on solid ground with a year under Dooley's system

SEC1 writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hey pal, huges, sykes are academically ineligible and ben martin have health issues did you ride the short-bus are what? 8 wins? wake up out of your big orange wet dream, it's impossible dooley wins 8 games.... montana, buff, mtsu, kentucky, vandy are sure wins, bearcats real close depending if the bearcats have the dear in the head light look in front of 102,000 gators ,ga,lsu,bama,sc, ark, are sure loses, i'llsay just like last year the kentucky game will decide if the vols will go bowling.

twin942 writes:

John, I've been critical of some of your articles in the past. This is a good article. Keep it up.

I predict 8 wins. I see 8 as a very winnable number, but of course that means no upsets. I believe the injury bug will need to avoid us as well. I see us winning Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo, South Carolina, MTSU, Arkansas, Vandy, Kentucky. We may trade the Arkansas win for a Georgia win. I think SC is a pretender, and I think Arkansas drops as well, although I'd be concerned about their offense against our D. That game's equalizer is Justin Wilcox and his ability to put a package together to fool a new qb. I do see UGA as tough this year; not counting on a win there, but it would be great.

All in all, we are on the right track. Dooley is doing a very good job, especially given the mess he inherited. In 2 years we will be studs, maybe in 2012. I am very optimistic about this team and our coaching staff.

SEC1 writes:

in response to twin942:

John, I've been critical of some of your articles in the past. This is a good article. Keep it up.

I predict 8 wins. I see 8 as a very winnable number, but of course that means no upsets. I believe the injury bug will need to avoid us as well. I see us winning Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo, South Carolina, MTSU, Arkansas, Vandy, Kentucky. We may trade the Arkansas win for a Georgia win. I think SC is a pretender, and I think Arkansas drops as well, although I'd be concerned about their offense against our D. That game's equalizer is Justin Wilcox and his ability to put a package together to fool a new qb. I do see UGA as tough this year; not counting on a win there, but it would be great.

All in all, we are on the right track. Dooley is doing a very good job, especially given the mess he inherited. In 2 years we will be studs, maybe in 2012. I am very optimistic about this team and our coaching staff.

wrong, sc will pound you guys paper thin dt's with lattermore and the razorbacks will pound you with knile davis as well as pick you apart with the real "tyler" tyler wilson that is. crazy to pick those games two of the best in the sec. but just like last year most vol fans said 8 wins none said 6-7 but im late for our family bbq( no pun intended, bruce pearl) here in lakeland fl.

kletusfleabiscuit writes:

in response to SEC1:

wrong, sc will pound you guys paper thin dt's with lattermore and the razorbacks will pound you with knile davis as well as pick you apart with the real "tyler" tyler wilson that is. crazy to pick those games two of the best in the sec. but just like last year most vol fans said 8 wins none said 6-7 but im late for our family bbq( no pun intended, bruce pearl) here in lakeland fl.

Don't choke on your BBQ like you choke on your predictions. Both Ark and SC will be tough games with a lot of pounding going on. Poole is just as capable as Lattimore is. SC's entire season hinges on whether they can keep Garcia out of trouble. Again. True that UT probably won't win as many games as us fans want - but it is unanimous among those of us that study the game - Tennessee is a vastly improved team. Your silly synopsis indicates that you don't take Tennessee seriously. Good for us.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

I don't see any way to win more than 7. That will be acceptable to most UT fans, but next yr. Dooley will be on the hot seat and will have to win minimum 8 games. Clock is ticking for him.

CCLC writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Will win: Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt

Should win: Georgia, Kentucky

Might win: Florida, SC

Probalby want win: LSU, Alabama, Arkansas

Despite the weaker non-conference schedule (thanks hammy) the SEC schedule is as always brutal (minus vandy & KY).

However, I am optimistic that the Vols can win 8 games this year parring any major injuries to the starters. Who knows, as the season progresses and improvement comes, maybe even 9 wins and a good bowl game on top. It can happen.

Dude you are not only drinking the Kool Aide you are brewing it.
Good Luck.

murrayvol writes:

in response to hcjournals#206623:

We need to start beating Florida.

That may take awhile.....say 2 months and change.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Enjoy the 4th and let the trolls here keep chattering..........all for nothing.

SEC1...........how does it feel to be a kid here
trying to talk to the grownups? You've got to be a kid.............as you don't know the diff in a dear and a deer.

You'll learn that when you get to middle school however.........for now, just another little troll. Not even a teeny bopper yet.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good job Navalorange,

I love it ! SEC1, the kid, and his fellow trolls are running scared. They are trying to convince themselves the more they sound silly............
that we'll believe them.

Guess what? Ain't gonna happen.

Happy 4th Vol friends

VolGrad writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Likewise....

VOLliven2it writes:

I am just glad we will have a more experienced team over all and will be much improved.

BreatheUT writes:

We may or may not win at Florida, and I think we will, but the Gators will not be very good this year. Their defense will have to carry them all year. They have a bunch of possession receivers, the only way their running backs beat you is if you let them get outside, their offensive line is suspect after an average year. Their OL should be better after getting a couple of guys back but they also lost their best lineman. Brantley hasn't done anything since being called their next Heisman winner prior to last season by the Gator faithful. And their kicker was a trainwreck. They have the homefield advantage over the Vols and have recruited well but they are in the pack with Tennessee, South Carolina (who I say is the slight favorite in the East) and UGA.

SEC1 writes:

in response to BreatheUT:

We may or may not win at Florida, and I think we will, but the Gators will not be very good this year. Their defense will have to carry them all year. They have a bunch of possession receivers, the only way their running backs beat you is if you let them get outside, their offensive line is suspect after an average year. Their OL should be better after getting a couple of guys back but they also lost their best lineman. Brantley hasn't done anything since being called their next Heisman winner prior to last season by the Gator faithful. And their kicker was a trainwreck. They have the homefield advantage over the Vols and have recruited well but they are in the pack with Tennessee, South Carolina (who I say is the slight favorite in the East) and UGA.

wrong again, the gators are not in the pack with tn, gators have not had three losing seasons in six years, gators have reeled off six in a row vs the vols. vols are more in the pack with kentucky and vandy fighting for bowl spots at 6-7 and now fighting for recruits(see kimbrow) with vandy

BreatheUT writes:

in response to SEC1:

wrong again, the gators are not in the pack with tn, gators have not had three losing seasons in six years, gators have reeled off six in a row vs the vols. vols are more in the pack with kentucky and vandy fighting for bowl spots at 6-7 and now fighting for recruits(see kimbrow) with vandy

Look junior, we are not referring to yesterday we're talking about 2011. Learn to wipe your @$$ good before coming on to talk football with the grown-ups.

Next!

twin942 writes:

in response to SEC1:

wrong, sc will pound you guys paper thin dt's with lattermore and the razorbacks will pound you with knile davis as well as pick you apart with the real "tyler" tyler wilson that is. crazy to pick those games two of the best in the sec. but just like last year most vol fans said 8 wins none said 6-7 but im late for our family bbq( no pun intended, bruce pearl) here in lakeland fl.

SEC, we'll see..

6 very winnable games, a much better offense, a much better coaching staff than even Kiffin had. The D will be better under Wilcox, although still thin. You really think SC is that good? They won the East by default last year. Georgia takes the East this year.

Now, face your own hard facts; your Gators aren't good; they are middle of the pack material. Your bravado won't make discerning fans think any differently. And as far as the predictions, we'll see who is right in December.

hueypilot writes:

Tough to pick SC with Garcia at the helm. He's one stupid move away from being done. And he does have the habit of throwing the ball the the wrong color jersey at the most crucial times. In fact, a little like Ainge, only he runs better.

royrog#221514 writes:

"The fourth-year seniors on this team already have lost 20 games, have never won more than seven games in a season, have yet to win a bowl game..."

Excuse me... But the Vols won the Music City Bowl, 20 - 17 over North Carolina.

Adams needs to get his fact straight.

ncvol17 writes:

in response to bartlett79:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sounds like something said at 1am. I have followed the VOLS for 30+ years but also consider myself a realist. Realism: UA,LSU,SC,ARK,UGA,UF vs depleted talent level. I hope for 1 upset.

cooper65#432178 writes:

We need a big win, on national TV, against Flurida or Bamer to get back in the hunt for bigtime recruits. We're not going to win an SEC championship until that happens, but we could have some decent 7-5, 8-4 teams with a Citrus Bowl win.

SEC1 writes:

in response to cooper65#432178:

We need a big win, on national TV, against Flurida or Bamer to get back in the hunt for bigtime recruits. We're not going to win an SEC championship until that happens, but we could have some decent 7-5, 8-4 teams with a Citrus Bowl win.

well, you know what one guy by the name of steve once said...... you can't spell citrus without the U&T

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