Tag Archives: Tennessee Vols

Proof We Aren’t Always Right About College Football

At the end of any given football season, I always love going back through my articles and checking out all the brilliant things I said throughout the year. Then, when I come across all the completely dumb things I said, I enjoy that part even more. Laughter is good for the soul.

So, first of all, let me brag to you about the things I said that have turned out to be absolutely brilliant in retrospect. I don’t get to brag about being right about football too often, so let me have my moment.

April 2016:

“SEC East Sleeper: Remember the Gators” This was a title for one of my articles early in the year.

May 2016:

“This year, I am still cautious about all the optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program.” Good call here, even if my dad was convinced otherwise.

“With the return of Mike Williams from injury, Watson should have a great target downfield for those longer plays.” Deshaun Watson proved to be a huge asset in Clemson’s championship game, but so did Mike Williams.

“I would not be surprised to see a Heisman winner from an ACC football program this year.” It may not have been Deshaun Watson, but the Heisman winner was from the ACC.

August 2016:

“And as much as I ride for SEC football, I have to admit I do expect the Seminoles to come out victorious.” This was the one SEC game I really wanted to see during week one, even if I did expect Ole Miss to drop this game.

“Do I expect Ole Miss to get its third victory in a row in this series? No, but I do anticipate a very interesting football game.” This came from that same article and was referring to watching Alabama’s trip Ole Miss. I was right about this year, even though Ole Miss had given Alabama trouble lately.

“They’ve actually won eleven in a row in this rivalry…but who’s counting? This year I truly do expect that winning streak to come to an end.” This is yet another gem from that same article about watching only one SEC football game each week. Tennessee had been hitting a huge mental roadblock in the Florida game–until this year.

September 2016:

“ACC football is not to be taken lightly this season.” Early in the season, I warned everyone to give ACC football some respect this year. After the conference’s bowl season performance, it was definitely earned.

“To be totally honest, at this point the regular season is just Alabama getting warmed up for its playoff appearance.” This came from my Alabama-Ole Miss smackdown piece, but really was not an exaggeration at all.

“Florida’s offense is still nothing special.” Although this was from my smackdown piece before the Florida-Tennessee game, it turned out to be very true. No surprise there.

October 2016:

“I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways.” Yet another smackdown piece that proved to be correct.

December 2016:

“It will be funny to see Great Value DBU shut down the Heisman winner though. I must say…” This was a personal tweet referring to LSU shutting down Lamar Jackson, which did eventually happen.

So I was right, at least to some extent, pretty often. But what I hope you’ll find much more amusing is all those really stupid things I said. Maybe my sense of humor is strange, but I thought some of these were pretty hilarious.

May 2016:

“If Mark Richt can do that, they could have a very impressive non-conference win in his first season as head coach.” I really thought Miami’s trip to South Bend would be a noteworthy non-conference game this season. Unfortunately, beating Notre Dame wasn’t exactly an impressive feat.

August 2016:

“But if the Vols do get that win then it’s safe to say they are national contenders and Alabama better watch out for them in a couple weeks.” Remember when everyone thought the Vols were potential national contenders before the season even started? I bought into that hype when discussing how I wanted to watch the Vols play at Georgia in Week 5 of SEC football.

“I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to win at home over the Crimson Tide.” I wanted to watch the Alabama-Tennessee game in Week 7 if I could only watch one SEC game. Poor choice there.

September 2016:

“Labor Day is just a welcomed day off from both work and school for most people. But for Ole Miss this year, it’s the day [it takes] down the Florida State Seminoles.” From a Smackdown Friday piece so I didn’t really mean it. But still hilarious. Plus, that whole article was hilarious if you like hating on Florida State.

“…if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.” It’s a good thing I was broke. I would’ve wasted a lot of money thinking that the Vols were really going to win the SEC East.

“I hate to break it to Clemson fans, but Lamar Jackson is about the shatter your hopes and dreams.” This Smackdown was off. Lamar Jackson did take Deshaun Watson’s Heisman trophy. But Clemson still lived out its dream of winning a national championship again.

October 2016:

“Coastal Division Is Worse for ACC Football than East Is for SEC Football” Even just the title of this article is off. After bowl season, there’s not much that can be said for the SEC East, aside from Florida and Tennessee.

November 2016:

“It’s not that the Razorbacks can’t beat the Gators. It’s just that they won’t.” Another Smackdown Friday article gone wrong. The Razorbacks could and did beat the Gators–in convincing fashion.

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

Grab Your Beer: We Have a Perfect Saturday Slate of SEC Football

I’m going to take you back to an article I wrote before the season got underway. I came up with the nightmarish scenario of only being able to watch one SEC football game per week. Then I picked the games I’d watch each week if that were the case.

Weeks 1-5, I was pretty much dead-on. Week 6 is where SEC football makes me feel a little silly.

That’s because it’s now Week 6 and there are three huge conference match-ups that I will watch. Ironically, the one that I initially picked over the others seems to be the one of least consequence here. And by that, I mean I picked the LSU Tigers visiting the Florida Gators as my one game to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll definitely be watching the Tigers pay the Gators a visit. But if I had to choose just one game to watch, it might not be that game anymore.

Fortunately, my nightmare hasn’t come true and I do not have to pick only one game to watch. The schedule works out perfectly for the SEC football fan in me this week, as I get to watch three amazing games. So here’s a preview of what this perfect Saturday as SEC football fan will look like.

At noon on ESPN, the Tigers play the Gators. This game may not be the best of the weekend but it’s still intriguing in many ways.

LSU fired head coach Les Miles and left Ed Orgeron in charge for the time being. At the same time, star RB Leonard Fournette’s status is “day-by-day” with an ankle injury. Additionally, Danny Etling has taken over at quarterback instead of Brandon Harris. Yes, they beat the Missouri Tigers in convincing fashion, but that was at home against a team that was winless in SEC play. With or without Leonard Fournette, it’ll be interesting to see how this Tiger team handles a road game against a ranked opponent now that Miles is gone.

Florida has question marks, but for completely different reasons. The Gators seem to have caught the injury bug, with their whole starting defensive line suffering some kind of injury. Not to mention that their biggest hope for having a good quarterback, Luke Del Rio, injured his knee taking a low hit a couple weeks ago. It also seems like the coaching staff hasn’t really figured out an effective rotation for the running backs, as made evident by Jordan Scarlett’s absence on many snaps last game. On top of that, there are questions about Florida’s rushing defense after how they handled Ralph Webb. This group of defensive backs is always great, but can the whole defense rise to the occasion of defending someone like Derrius Guice or possibly even Fournette?

After that game, Tennessee takes on Texas A&M on CBS at 3:30. Regardless of where your loyalty lies, why wouldn’t you want to watch a battle of unbeatens?

The Vols to have destiny or the football gods or even just some good juju on their side so far this season. Josh Dobbs has come through in a clutch way, and his passing game has helped lead the Vols to some pretty great comeback wins. Unfortunately, the Vols have suffered some injuries on defense and still have some ground to make up there. And there’s also the question of whether or not this team can play a whole game of good football instead of just playing a great second half. But, with fate seemingly on their side, you just can’t count out this Vols team.

Texas A&M, once again, has gotten off to a 5-0 start this season. This is the third season in a row that they’ve gotten off to such a start. But will this be the first of those years that they also win Game 6? It very well could be. Trevor Knight has proven to be solid at quarterback, and a great supporting cast surrounds him. The Aggies are ranked in the top 50 FBS teams in passing yards, rushing yards, points for, and points against. No question marks about that.

At 7:00, flip back to ESPN to watch as Alabama pays Arkansas a visit. Alabama is always good, but Arkansas has been surprisingly good this season too. That makes this game the upset alert of the week.

Alabama, like Tennessee, has had some slow starts. Okay, their starts are like a jog to Tennessee’s walk. But they definitely can’t afford to be jogging this game. As I’ve said before, the Crimson Tide may not have a super strong quarterback this year, but that doesn’t matter. True freshman Jalen Hurts does enough to make the rest of the team shine. They actually don’t even have a go-to running back like Derrick Henry this season, and that weakness worries me. But even if Alabama wins this one, they go to Tennessee next and host Texas A&M after that.

I never know what to make of Arkansas. All I know is that at any given moment, they could pull off a borderline erotic upset win. I have my doubts after their loss to Texas A&M, but you just never know. They have a great quarterback in Austin Allen, but how will he handle an elite defense? And even more worrisome than that is the question of how the Razorback defense will handle Alabama’s potent offense. I’ll always give them the upset factor, but if they manage to pull this one off it might be just plain erotic for coach Bret Bielema.

Now I have just one request: Grab a beer (or six) and enjoy what will probably be an exciting day of SEC football.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Featured photo courtesy of Gainesville Apartments.

The Tennessee Vols Will Keep Snatching Souls on their Way to Being SEC East Champs

Last Friday, I picked the Tennessee Vols to beat Florida…well, actually I said they would “WTFA.” That turned out to be true. Over a month ago, three of us here at Campus Pressbox (including myself), picked the Vols to win the SEC East. And before that, I even wrote an article listing some pretty major reasons why the Vols would win the SEC East this year. Four games into the season, I’m sticking with it all.

The truth is that it really isn’t over until it’s actually over. But if I had money to bet I’d be putting it all on the Tennessee Vols to win the SEC East right now.

That’s not to say the Florida Gators can’t win out in SEC play and somehow end up beating out the Vols. With the way LSU football has been going, Florida’s schedule is starting to look a bit easier. It’s also not to say the Georgia Bulldogs can’t bounce back from that ugly loss at Ole Miss. They can, but they would still have to get through both the Vols and the Gators.

What I am saying is that I believe that the Tennessee Vols will win the SEC East just as much as I believed it before the season started. I actually may believe it even more than that. Butch Jones has finally gotten just the win he needed. And this team is something special. There’s no denying that.

People will always have something to say about Josh Dobbs because he isn’t a traditional passing quarterback. But he is at the heart of why this team is so successful. He is exactly the kind of leader you want on your side when you come into the second half down 21-3. He’s relentless and he isn’t afraid. He’ll take some hard hits from a blitz as long as it means he got a chance to fire off that pass. He won’t let the pressure get to his head. He will go out there and prove every single person who doubts him wrong. And you have to love that about Josh Dobbs.

Beyond Dobbs, there are so many other players who make this team special. Because of all of Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor’s trash talk, nobody will forget that Jauan Jennings catch that really opened up the lead for the Vols in the second half. Jalen Hurd was a workhorse as usual, with 26 carries for 95 yards. Josh Malone had another good game for the Vols, putting up 91 yards receiving and a touchdown. Todd Kelly, Jr. had a great interception for the Vols. Evan Berry finally was able to show how explosive he can be on kick returns. Alvin Kamara even helped with field position for the Vols on punt returns. All in all, it was a true team effort that won this game for the Vols.

This team showed that when they are firing on all cylinders, they could be nearly unstoppable. That was something I hadn’t yet seen from the Tennessee Vols this year. They also showed just how resilient they are by coming back from an 18-point deficit to win by 10 points. Even when some of their own fans had turned on them, they never let up. They kept playing the game the way they knew they could and they were eventually rewarded for it.

Now, back to reality. That game opened up a really tough stretch for the Tennessee Vols. This coming weekend, they’ll be visiting the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. The weekend after that they’ll go to College Station to face the Texas A&M Aggies. And after that game, they come back home to host the Alabama Crimson Tide. The road to the SEC Championship Game definitely won’t be easy, but this team seems as capable as any to power through.

Maybe I’m biased because this is my hometown team, but nobody can deny that the Tennessee Vols looked downright scary in that second half on Saturday. They snatched the souls right out of the Florida players’ bodies. Now they just need to bring that same intensity for the entire game these next few weeks. Remember: #WGWTFA.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo by Kristen Botica.

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The Tennessee Vols Will End Florida’s Streak and “WTFA” While They’re at It

It’s that time of the year. It’s time for one of the most important games all year for me as a fan of the Tennessee Vols. It’s time for the Volunteers to finally start a streak of their own and show Gator fans why this is a true rivalry.

Beyond just Tennessee, we have to win this game for the good of the American people. Why? Florida’s usual starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is out with an injury. That means that Florida is starting their transfer quarterback from Purdue, Austin Appleby. And apparently Austin Appleby is a fan of Osama Bin Laden. Well, maybe not a fan, but he still dressed up like him. There’s actually photo evidence.

Don’t even get me started about that trash-talking delinquent Jalen Tabor. Apparently he thinks it’s pretty obvious that Florida will beat Tennessee. I’m sure it’ll shut him up (at least for a bit) when he finds out just how wrong he is. Maybe he’ll even disappear from Twitter again.

I know what Florida fans are thinking: The Vols have lost eleven years in a row, so what has changed? Well, I can tell you what hasn’t changed. Florida’s offense is still nothing special. And it’ll be even worse with Appleby having to start at quarterback this week. Appleby, by the way, threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns in his time at Purdue. He’s pretty much nothing for the Vols to worry about.

Let’s not forget all the assets that the Vols have on their side. Offensively, they boast an impressive trio of guys who can all provide substantial rushing yardage. Quarterback Josh Dobbs is great on his feet and so are running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Now, if the Vols could only get the ball to Kamara in space…

One other very obvious thing that Tennessee has working in their favor is their attitude. And I mean that #WGWTFA attitude. (WARNING: The video features strong language.)

But really, can you beat an attitude like that? Virginia Tech couldn’t at that game in Bristol. Now it’s Florida’s turn to give it a try. We’ll see how well that “try” goes in front of over 100,000 rambunctious fans in Neyland stadium tomorrow.

I know there’s been some talk of a supposed curse from certain things. Apparently checkering Neyland is a bad sign. And the grey uniforms don’t have a stellar record…yet. AND College Gameday is going to be in town. Basically, things don’t look good for the Vols when you consider those circumstances.

There are other circumstances that matter infinitely more. Like Derek Barnett putting a beating on Appleby and Justin Martin, adding to Appleby’s interception count. When (not if) the Vols do those things, there will be thousands of happy Vol fans singing “Rocky Top” as loud as they can on Saturday. So loud that it will almost definitely haunt Florida’s players in their dreams later. This has been eleven years coming, so it will absolutely not disappoint.

In summary, if you ask me how Saturday will go I’ll tell you one thing: #WGWTFA.

 

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo by Kristen Botica.

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Josh Dobbs Is Living Proof Tennessee Athletes Aren’t Just Whiny Idiots

Now usually I try not to get heated by Internet trolls. But because of Vol quarterback Josh Dobbs, I came across something today that absolutely made my blood boil. My Tennessee orange blood, that is.

In case you didn’t know, #VolTwitter is a thing. It’s actually a pretty fantastic thing if you’re a Tennessee Volunteers football fan. It’s also a great thing if you hate Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor.

Today, Vol Twitter transformed itself a bit when Dobbs publicly stepped in to defend his fellow student-athletes. He was, in fact, defending them against this very poorly written article about their supposed whining.

Did you read it? If not, you probably won’t understand how absolutely furious I am right now. I assure you, I am this angry for a very solid reason.

First of all, how are you going to write an article insinuating that athletes are whiny and in that same article just whine about your own college experience?

You had food poisoning. How is that relevant to college athletics? You spend a lot of time earning your scholarship as an honors student. Again, how is that relevant? It seems like this is just a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

I could stop there, but I won’t. I have known many great athletes at both the school in my hometown, the University of Tennessee, and the school I attend, the University of Florida.

And when I say great, I’m not just talking about their success on the field or the court. I’m talking about these athletes as real human beings. In case you didn’t know, athletes are people too.

For example, Josh Dobbs, who reacted to this article on Twitter, is supposedly one of the nicest football players you could ever meet. And he’s also incredibly intelligent and will have a degree in aerospace engineering pretty soon.

That degree isn’t something the tutors earned for him. His classes aren’t something he’s ever whined about, either. He just knows that he’s one of thousands of student-athletes out there who always strive to be better. He’s the epitome of a great student-athlete.

Josh Dobbs aside, there are plenty of other reasons I have problems with what was said in this ridiculous article.

To put things in perspective for you, I came to the University of Florida because of a scholarship I earned through the Honors program. I have that same kind of honors school background in common with the author. But what I have beyond what she displays there is empathy and respect for these athletes.

So, maybe being an honors student requires extra time and effort. We get scholarships for that.

Being a football player is an entirely different thing, though. Athletes dedicate every fiber of their being to becoming part of these athletic programs with millions of fans. This kind of dedication is not like being an honors student. This kind of dedication is far beyond being an honors student.

You don’t just dedicate your mind and your time to a sport, you dedicate your body to a sport. And in the case of football, you can pay a pretty steep price for that kind of decision.

But athletes make this choice to do what they love, make schools money, and keep fans happy. That is an incredibly honorable decision. Anybody who says anything otherwise really must be ignorant of the lifestyles of actual student-athletes.

The author also mentions how ridiculous it is for athletes to be calling coaches for food because their fridges are empty. Their fridges wouldn’t be empty if they had time for jobs. But, because of their dedication to the school, they don’t have that time.

Not to mention, countless NCAA student athletes come from poor families who can’t afford to provide them any additional food. Their sports scholarships are their meal tickets. And this meal ticket has been rightfully earned. Whether it’s the special meals they have in their own cafeterias or the meals their coaches provide for them should not matter. It is all something that has been earned through literal blood, sweat and tears.

And if I’m being honest, honors students like myself (or the author of the article in question) would not have the opportunities we do if it weren’t for these so-called whiny athletes.

The millions of dollars these athletes make for our schools should not be undervalued just because we don’t like athletes talking about going hungry. These athletes deserve our respect and it’s time we all realize that.

If you have such a problem with people dedicating their entire lives to making your school money and getting benefits in return, then transfer to a school without major athletic programs. You’ll soon learn that there are a lot of nice things you won’t have without the money generated from these “whiny” athletes.

Email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Featured photo taken by Kristen Botica.

Tennessee and Florida: the Evolution of an SEC East Rivalry

This month, I was given the task of writing an article about “my” team’s biggest rivalry. This obviously posed an interesting question for me…which team would I be considering my own? If I were to stick with my Tennessee roots, then I would surely be writing about years of Tennessee-Florida matchups. But if I were to decide that Florida is “my” team for this purpose, then there would be no mention of Tennessee and it would be all about Florida playing Florida State. Funny how that works out! I, of course, decided to choose the option that allowed me the chance to talk about both of my teams in discussing Tennessee’s history of losses and their recent rivalry woes against the Florida Gators.

When the Rivalry Really Began

Those woes started about eleven years ago, now. But the real reason this qualifies as a rivalry is because of what happened in the 1990s. Though the teams did play before then, it was in 1992 that the SEC divisions made their matchup a permanent one. Any competitor that stands in your way of the division title is automatically going to be a rival. In the 1990s, the division title wasn’t the only one both teams seemed to be constantly chasing. Between the Vols and the Gators, they took eight out of ten SEC Championship titles during the decade. Not only that, but they also accounted for two National Championship victories during that same time period. It was safe to say that this game always had major implications for SEC football and possibly even NCAA football, as a whole.

If you ask most Gator fans which team is their biggest rival, they won’t say Tennessee. If you ask who their second-biggest rival is, they probably still won’t mention the Volunteers. But if you ask any Vol fan who their biggest rival is, they will easily mention the Gators. I know it; I grew up as a self-proclaimed “Gator hater” in East Tennessee. The only other rivalry that seems to come close is that with Alabama. But the Gators are still public enemy number one. So how did this disparity come to be?

The 1990s, the decade of VolGator SEC dominance, Florida managed to amass a 7-3 record over Tennessee. In the 2000s, they also had a 7-3 record over the Volunteers. And in the 2010s, they’re undefeated thus far and will therefore have the majority of wins in this rivalry regardless of the outcome of the next four games. Obviously, Gator fans aren’t particularly worried about the Tennessee game each year. But because Tennessee has managed to lose to them the majority of the time, and often in close fashion, Vol fans loathe the Gators. Two games come to mind when thinking about why exactly I would hate the Gators so much if I were still only a Vol fan. Their worst loss in recent memory came last year in Gainesville, and their “best” loss (if there is such a thing) came in the 2000s in Knoxville.

Tennessee’s “Best” Loss

In 2006, Urban Meyer was eager to prove himself as the new head coach for the Gators. He came into Neyland Stadium and did just that. But for the Volunteers, this was their best loss in this series. One highlight of this game was that defensive tackle Justin Harrell played his last game even though he had just injured his arm the week before. They also brought everything they had to the field, including a trick play touchdown pass and a great kicking performance. The Vols had the lead for much of the game and they didn’t blow it because of some horrible coaching decisions (I’ll get to that). They blew it because of simple mistakes in execution. To end Tennessee’s chances of possibly mounting a comeback after the Gators had taken a 21-20 lead in the closing minutes of the game, the Gators needed a big play. That’s just what they got when Reggie Nelson got an interception, allowing the Gators to eventually run out the clock.

The fact that they played such a close game with the eventual national champions is not something shameful. Think about how different things would have been that season if the Vols had been able to win on a last-minute field goal. The Gators would’ve been 6-2 in SEC play and the Vols would’ve been 6-2 as well. Since the Vols beat the Gators, they would’ve been the team representing the SEC East in the SEC Championship Game and would’ve gotten another shot at Arkansas (one of their two SEC losses). If the Vols had beaten Arkansas this time, then who knows how the season would’ve ended. Not to mention, Urban Meyer wouldn’t have gotten the same momentum over the Vols and the current win streak for the Gators would only be at a maximum of eight games, not eleven. There was another loss more recently that I would consider their “worst” loss in this rivalry, though.

Tennessee’s Worst Loss

Last year the Volunteers came into the season surrounded by more hype than they had seen in years. When Tennessee traveled to Gainesville, FL to play the Gators, many people knew that this game could possibly decide who took the SEC East title. Those people were right. Tennessee seemed to be clicking on all cylinders and the game was all but over. But then, the Gators managed to mount a stunning comeback. Butch Jones only helped the Gators in their comeback quest by calling timeouts at moments when Florida Coach Jim McElwain could really use those timeouts to his team’s advantage. The Gators capitalized on the opportunities they were given and were leading 28-27 with very little time left. The Vols were able to get in field goal range and missed not one, but two tries at what would’ve been the game-winning field goal. That is just the epitome of a terrible loss.

Again, think about how differently the season would’ve panned out if the Vols hadn’t choked in this game. Once again the Gators would’ve been 6-2 in SEC play and the Vols would’ve finished at the same mark with the tiebreaker. They would’ve headed to the SEC Championship Game for a rematch against Alabama, a team they played very tough just a few weeks prior. Tennessee could’ve beaten Alabama and the end result of their season would’ve been entirely different. The Vols did manage to run over Northwestern in their bowl game, but imagine if they had been able to squeak into the New Year’s Six instead. All of that opportunity was lost because of poor timeout usage by Jones and some pretty pitiful kicking.

Twelve in a Row?

This year, the rivalry may prove to be relevant to the NCAA as a whole again. But that only holds true if Tennessee can make this a true rivalry again by winning a game for the first time eleven years. While Florida seems to still be somewhat of an unknown with a new QB and the loss of some defensive starters, Tennessee has everything it could possibly need to make a great run in the SEC East. Once again, this game is likely to be the one that decides the SEC East champion. That fact alone automatically makes this a fantastic rivalry to witness. And if the Vols want the Gators to respect this rivalry the way they do, then they’ll need to bring everything they have for an entire four quarters of football this season. This journey back in time proves that just one bad quarter in this rivalry can ruin a whole season.

E-mail Kristen at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ogkristenb.

Why the Tennessee Volunteers Will Win the SEC East

Every time my dad calls me or I call him, we inevitably spend a huge portion of the call talking about college football. Although I was raised as a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers, I went to the dark side and became a Florida Gator fan when I went to college. Naturally, this means my dad and I tend to have differing opinions about SEC football the overwhelming majority of the time. Last year, we were both cautiously optimistic about the Vols and we both thought the Gators would be pretty bad. While the Gators proved us wrong and managed to come out of the season with a surprisingly good record, the Vols showed us exactly why we were so cautious about our optimism.

This year, I am still cautious about all the optimism surrounding the Tennessee football program. My dad, on the other hand, has told me three times now exactly why he thinks the Tennessee Volunteers will win the SEC East. In fact, he offered to hijack half of one of my articles for me. Instead of allowing that dangerous idea to play out, I decided to take it upon myself to be his voice. Maybe I will disappoint him less with this article than I did when I talked about Alabama football a couple weeks ago. Without further ado, here’s his list of reasons the Tennessee Volunteers will win the SEC East, accompanied by my explanations of his points.

Their Returning Players

If you ask my dad, he will tell you that as many as 10 players that are on their roster heading into next season could be picked by teams in the 2017 NFL Draft. While 10 may seem a bit too optimistic considering they have not had a player drafted since 2014, they could have had a player drafted this year had some of their starters not chosen to return for another shot at the elusive title. Among those returning for the Vols on offense this year are: senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs, redshirt junior running back Alvin Kamara, and junior running back Jalen Hurd. Basically, the Vols running game is going to be a very dangerous weapon. I mean, have you seen the video of Hurd running at a speed of 19.5 mph on a treadmill at an incline?

The Vols return a good number of defensive weapons too, including: junior defensive end Derek Barnett, senior cornerback Cameron Sutton, senior outside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and junior cornerback Justin Martin. A defense full of players like that has the potential to terrorize even the best of the SEC offenses. Tennessee is also returning a huge asset on special teams in junior Evan Berry. Berry, younger brother of my favorite Vol alumnus Eric Berry, ranked first in the NCAA last season in kickoff return average and was one of only four players in the country who had three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2015. Berry is listed as a defensive back and is sometimes used as such but he’s clearly most dangerous when he is returning kickoffs and punts.

New Defensive Coordinator, Bob Shoop

Bob Shoop was a great get for the Volunteers. Shoop was the defensive coordinator at Penn State from 2014-2015 and at Vanderbilt from 2011-2013. In each of those past five seasons he coached a top 25 defense. Last year, Penn State ranked 15th in the nation in total defense, holding opponents to an average of 324.3 yards per game. The season before that, Penn State ranked second in the nation in total defense, allowing an average of only 278.7 yards each game. And before that, Shoop saw similar success at Vanderbilt. That experience means he is no stranger to the toughness required to succeed in the SEC.

New Tight Ends Coach, Larry Scott

Larry Scott was also a good get for the Vols. The Miami Hurricanes had a pretty embarrassing season going last year when their head coach Al Golden was fired seven games into the season. The tight ends coach at the time, Larry Scott, was then selected to be the interim head coach. He inherited a team with low morale and an angry fan base but managed to make the best of it, leading the Canes to a 4-2 record while he was in charge. Between USF and Miami he has been an interim head coach, a tight ends coach, a running backs coach, and an offensive line coach. It is safe to say his experience should bring a little something extra to the Volunteers’ offense this season.

The Right Mindset

This last point cannot be stressed enough. One thing I have come to learn is that every sport is a mental challenge almost as much as a physical one. When competing in the best conference in all of college football, the team and its coaches having the right mindset can mean everything. My dad calls the attitude shown by the coaches this spring a “quiet confidence.” Former Vol Al Wilson likened the way this group of players interacts to how the ’98 Championship Vols were. He talked about the leadership shown by those players returning as well as having the attitude of being a team and playing for one another. Head Coach Butch Jones described his team as having “a great inner drive.” And if there is one thing you need to win a championship it is definitely that drive, that relentless determination to do something only one team can do any given season. This Vols team full of seasoned veterans seems to be up to that mental challenge.

Those points I borrowed from my dad are all completely valid reasons to believe that this could finally be Tennessee’s year to win the SEC East. In fact, many other analysts believe that the Vols will at least win the SEC East this season. I actually almost have myself convinced they will finally pull it off this year. But, the biggest question still remaining for the Vols is whether or not their passing game will be improved with junior college transfer Jeff George and sophomore Preston Williams as their leading receivers. If they can get their passing game going, this team could really be something special. Without a somewhat balanced attack on offense, I worry that the Vols may not be able to outlast their tougher opponents like Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Florida. They certainly were not able to outlast Florida and Alabama last year. Maybe this year will be their year, maybe this year all the optimism will be warranted. And if it is not their year, then Coach Jones will be sitting on a scorching hot seat up there in Rocky Top.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter to see more conversations about football that I have with my dad. Or you can see the conversations I have with myself about football because those can be equally amusing, with the Volunteer in me pitted against the Gator in me.

Ten Reasons Why I Can’t Wait for the Return of SEC Football

It has come: the time of the year when the football world starts to get boring. The college football season is over. The bowl season is over. The NFL season is over. The Super Bowl has been won. The high school recruits have made their decisions. The NFL combine has showcased our athletes. In the football world, this is the time of the year when we do a lot of waiting. And the more I think about it, the harder it gets for me to patiently await the start of the 2016 season for SEC football teams. I can think of countless reasons I am anxiously awaiting SEC football returning to my screen and to my college town, but I have decided to only subject you to ten of those reasons.

  1. The tailgating: I know, tailgating is a common practice for football fans everywhere. But a tailgate in SEC country is something that is often imitated but never duplicated. If you have ever lived in an SEC college town, then you know this. Sure, our teams are better so we don’t need to be as drunk to tolerate however they play that weekend, but we all know football and beer go hand-in-hand anyways. Or football and bourbon…that, too.
  2. The match-ups: We also all know by now that there are some obvious perennial powerhouse teams in the SEC (I’m looking at you, Bama). But that fact does not prevent us from watching interesting matchups every single week, especially those deep-seeded rivalries in our conference like the Iron Bowl. Even in a down year, either team can win one of those rivalry games. And that unpredictability is just plain awesome.
  3. The defense: There are rules by now that take out a little bit of the excitement that has come along with defensive hits in college football. But even though they have softened the game up, we still get to witness some pretty amazing defensive plays down here. The defensive talent on SEC football teams is unparalleled. And everybody knows the key to winning, especially in the SEC, is defense.
  4. The anticipation: This one is pretty self-explanatory. We wait all off-season until our team gets to kick off their season. We wake up too early that day and wait until our game starts. Then, before we know it, the game is over. So almost every week, we get an entire week of down time. During that down time we can scout the opponents and our anticipation for the next game grows. And with the teams we play throughout the season down here, that anticipation almost never fades.
  5. The playoffs: The BCS was a flawed system. The playoffs are a flawed system as well. But at least they are a bit less flawed. There are always going to be a number of biased voters involved in choosing the “best” teams. So having the teams that were deemed part of the top four face off at the end of the year is much better than just giving that chance to the supposed top two. Not that it was a problem for SEC football before, but we almost definitely will be represented on a yearly basis now.
  6. The coaches: College football coaches are a special breed. The coaches in the SEC are even more special. Just last week, a couple of the SEC coaches and a couple Big Ten coaches had a little fun on Twitter. But how can we forget Nick Saban’s extremely embarrassing dance moves, Les Miles and his affinity for grass, or Will Muschamp’s very colorful language? Week in and week out in either half of the conference, you are sure to be entertained by the whole cast of coaches.
  7. The Saturdays: To be completely honest, I am not really sure what to do with myself on most Saturdays. But once the football season starts, I know what I will be doing for hours on end every single Saturday. Even on my team’s bye weekends I know I will be able to find another good conference game to watch. Ahh, the joys of the SEC!
  8. The tradition: If you have ever been to an SEC football game, then you will understand how incredible the tradition is. Tennessee fans will be drunkenly singing Rocky Top, Bama fans obnoxiously yelling “Roll Tide,” Auburn fans constantly saying “War Eagle,” and Ole Miss fans adding their “Hotty Toddy” (whatever that means) to the mix. Any true SEC fan can agree that being a part of their team’s tradition is an experience like no other. That tradition forms an immediate bond between every single fan in the stadium and even fans across the country.
  9. The emotions: An SEC fan can experience the full range of emotions in just a matter of minutes. The perfect example: last year, Tennessee visited Florida. The Vols took a convincing lead over the Gators. My dad was a little smug and definitely very happy. Meanwhile I was visibly upset. Then Florida mounted a crazy comeback and won the game. I was in a state of disbelief; I could barely even form a sentence. Meanwhile my dad could barely stomach a single bite of food. That game caused both my dad and me to experience more emotion than we would have watching an Oscar-nominated drama. And SEC football does that for the rest of the fans on a regular basis too.
  10. The pride: Last but not least, here in SEC Country there are two kinds of pride that many of us can understand. There is the obvious pride that goes along with your favorite team winning a game or having a good season. Then there is the SEC pride that comes from the realization that your team is a part of the best conference in college football. I prefer Gator pride any day, but my SEC pride will do when my Gators are not able to deliver.

I am a woman of my word. I said that I would only subject you to ten of my reasons, and that is what I did. But if you want some more SEC love you can interact with me on Twitter, @OGKristenB! Or even if you are just as bored as I am waiting for football to come back into your life then you can find me on Twitter to empathize. After all, misery loves company.