Tennessee ready to devour SEC's weakest teams, make late-season charge
Tennessee’s hard work is done.
The Vols have played Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama, pushing all five to the final seconds despite beating only Georgia.
Now, its time for Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) to feast on the soft part of the schedule.
The Vols’ remaining games are against Kentucky, South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt — the four weakest teams in the SEC’s weaker division with an 0-7 team from Conference USA filling the middle like the faux cream inside a Hostess cupcake.
The final month couldn’t be much softer for an SEC team.
The Vols’ timing couldn’t be much better, either.
South Carolina lost its coach and its quarterback from a mediocre team. Kentucky has gone astray after a promising 4-1 start. Winless North Texas has held only one opponent under 30 points. Missouri hasn’t scored a touchdown in its last three games. Vanderbilt is, well, Vanderbilt, though the Commodores got a boost of morale from their victory over Mizzou.
Not that the Vols couldn’t handle a little more meat. Butch Jones’ team easily could be 5-2 and 7-0 was possible. The Vols blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma, missed a potential winning field-goal attempt against Florida and failed on final drives after losing leads against Arkansas and Alabama.
If you’re a Vol fan, you’re disappointed in the close losses, but pleased that the Vols have shown they can play with anybody.
Now, it’s time to prove they can win games against overmatched teams. Anything less than five straight victories would be a disappointment.
Tennessee isn’t a typical 3-4 team. Joshua Dobbs, who has 9 TD passes and 5 rushing TDs, is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. Jalen Hurd, who has 664 rushing yards and 9 TDs, is one of the top running backs.
Six Vols receivers have at least 10 catches and Hurd has 9. The Vols’ defense, which held Alabama to 19 points last Saturday, hasn’t been great, but it’s held its own.
The stats indicate a team that should be winning. Except for one, that is. The Vols have made only 9 of 17 field-goal attempts. They missed field-goal attempts in all four losses, including three in the 5-point loss to Alabama.
Tennessee should be better next season. Only 4 of their current 22 starters are seniors.
The Vols aren’t a typical 3-4 team. An 8-4 team, maybe. The opportunity is in front of them.