Goal-setting is an underrated part of college football. It's underrated because it's often not made public.
In some cases, you can guess the goals.
Alabama's goal is probably to win another national championship. Kentucky players are likely dedicated to keeping coach Joker Phillips employed for another season. And LSU players might aspire to not just make the national championship game again, but also gain at least 100 yards in it.
But I won't venture a guess on Tennessee's goals. I'd rather advise them instead. And I'm going to take three columns to do it.
Welcome to this column's first series since 2003 when I took two days to explain why Phillip Fulmer qualified as a good — but not great — coach.
The most important aspect of goal-setting is staying grounded. For example, Akron University players shouldn't have "No. 1 Or Nothing" taped to their lockers.
Nor should UT players. Instead, something along the lines of "Leave The Bottom Feeders Behind" would be appropriate.
I'm not opposed to naming names: Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
I realize the Commodores are making progress under second-year coach James Franklin, the Wildcats beat UT last November and Ole Miss is competent when it has a Manning at quarterback. But only when the Vols' program is at death's door should it be mentioned in the same sentence with any one of the three.
You know how damaging the Kentucky loss was. Can you imagine the cumulative trauma from a loss to Kentucky or Vanderbilt a year later? Lane Kiffin would no longer be the most unpopular coach in UT history.
Beating Kentucky and Vanderbilt is a must. But beating them badly is preferred.
From 2001 through 2003, UT beat Vanderbilt by scores of 38-0, 24-0 and 48-0. That's how UT fans want to remember the series. And they want to remember the Kentucky series by the five consecutive games in which the Vols
hung half a hundred on the Wildcats (1996-2000).
Unfortunately for the Vols, they won't have a chance to hang anything on the Rebels this season. Ole Miss left the schedule with a 52-14 loss in 2010 at Neyland Stadium.
There is an upside to not playing the Rebels, though. At least no one will feel compelled to point out all the similarities in the two programs.
Ole Miss and UT each finished last in its division last season. The most famous quarterback from each school is a Manning. Both programs have employed Ed Orgeron and David Cutcliffe. Both have a huge fan base in Memphis. Both have had three different head coaches since the 2007 season. Both program's coaches appeared in the "The Blindside."
It's a wonder fans outside the Southeast can tell the Rebels and Vols apart. UT's first goal for this season: Make sure they can.
Coming Monday: A realistic goal for Tennessee in the SEC.