Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Sunday, November 20, 2005

Last Words on Saturday’s Game

Congratulations to the Commodores. Y'all played a heck of a football game and deserved the win.

You know, 22 years of futility would be enough to make any team forget how to win. When a team loses that often, it becomes easier to make excuses for losing, and actually grow to accept it.

But not the Commodores.

When the Vols came back, scoring 17 straight points to take a 3 point lead in the 4th quarter, a lot of teams with Vandy's history would have folded.

But not the Commodores.

They quietly went about their business, drove the ball down the field and scored the winning touchdown. They knew what they had to do, and had faith in their coaches, their quarterback, and each other. No player felt like he had to win the game on his own; instead, they trusted each other to do their jobs and knew they could win as a team.

That's character, something the Vol teams over the last few years have lacked.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Few Words About the UT Vols

Embarrassing.
Overrated.
Poorly Coached.
Underachieving.

I could go on, but you get the point. When Coach Fulmer said that the Vols were just "a few plays away from a great season" during his press conference acknowledging the resignation of Randy Sanders, I knew he was in bad need of a reality check. Sadly, the check must have bounced since he just said, "Before you start building back anything, you have to hit rock bottom. This is rock bottom."

Message to Coach Fulmer: When you're ranked number three in the preseason, that is not a team that should be found at the 'rock bottom'.

Now, the cheerleaders masquerading as journalists on "The Sports Animal" have all vocally supported Fulmer, (I guess the 'animal' must be an ostrich) saying he should be given a chance to turn the team around. Of course, they have to say that. If they tell the truth about the futility of Fulmer's program, they may lose access to the athletes, and since their network is all Vol, all the time, that would be the equivalent of broadcast suicide. So instead of being honest, they'll make excuses for the coaches, and remind us of the National Championship from 7 years ago, or blame it on the players.

But here's the thing: Why should the man who brought us from a National Championship to these depths be given the chance to bring us out? And more to the point, what has he done to make anybody with half a brain think he can turn this thing around? After all, it's been his decisions that have led us to where we are.

Remember this post from Oct24th? Check out the charts and the stats there. Philip Fulmer has coached the Vols from excellence to mediocrity (or worse) all while placing more players in the NFL than just about every other program in the nation. Not to mention spending considerably more than all the other Division I schools.

What the Sports Ostriches won't tell you is that it isn't just about results; it's about meeting or exceeding expectations. Here's an example. Vandy is going to finish the season with a losing record again. But, they took Florida to double overtime, stretched Georgia, and beat Tennessee for the first time in 22 years. They'll finish 5-6 and be ecstatic about it, because nobody expected them to be that successful. Tennessee on the other hand will finish 5-6, if we're lucky, but because we expected to go 10-2 or maybe 9-3 at the worst, we're not going to be ecstatic about it.

Now that's a gross example (very gross actually) but what the radio pundits refuse to acknowledge is that the same arithmetic applies when you expect to go 10-1 but you go 8-3, and this has been par for the course under Fulmer. His teams consistently fail to meet expectations based on the talent he has available. So while Jimmy may crow about all the 8 or 9 win seasons, he's forgetting that they should have been 10 or 11 win seasons. In effect, Fulmer needs his teams to be more talented than opposing teams in order to break even, and significantly more talented in order to win.

This is not a recipe for a winning program.

Sadly, I have to remind you of the prediction I made on Oct 24th:
Upset lock of the millennium Take Vandy and the points against Tennessee on Nov 19. The 'Dores are about to end the streak and win outright.


For all of you out there who still think we can't fire Fulmer, let me ask you two questions:

How many times has a team ranked in the Top 5 finished the season with a losing record?

Of those teams, how many kept their head coach?

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Meet the New Boss: Same as the Old Boss

UT just announced their first move in the post Sanders era; they're benching Clausen in favor of Ainge.

Yeah, that'll work.

OK, we're going in to Notre Dame and there's a couple of things we know right off the bat. First, we have to establish a running game. This is a necessity if we want to have any hope of winning. Unfortunately, offensive line play has been spotty and it looks like our only options at tail back will be Cory Anderson, the starting fullback, or a freshman walk on.

This is not a recipe for a great ground game.

Lacking a ground attack, the next best option is a strong short passing game. Once agan, we have problems there as well. Not only do our receivers have a hard time catching the ball when it hits them in the hands, the touch pass is not exactly the strongest part of Ainge's game. (Which of course begs the question, "What is the strong part of his game?") It seems to me that in this situation, you'd want the guy who reads defenses best and who can deliver the short pass in at quarterback.

And last and certainly least, we come to the deep passing game. This is Ainge's one advantage over Clausen; he can overthrow the receiver by 30 yards instead of 10.

So, it appears that our game plan come Saturday will be run for 2 yds, run for 1 yard, run for minus 4 yards and/or get a penalty, then hurl the ball downfield as far as possible and hope an orange jersy comes up with it.

I'm not too optimistic about our chances.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 30, 2005

UT vs South Carolina: Questions

I went to a Halloween costume party last night. I was going to go as the Vol offense, but then realized I'd have to be a no-show, and I didn't want to miss the fun.

I've just got one question for the UT coaching staff. Who had the bright idea to bench the starter, leave him there until 2 minutes left in the game, then bring him in to try and save the day when he was ice cold?

Now I've got just one question for the Sports Director. Why the hell is that coach collecting a paycheck?

I was asked today who we should hire if we fired Fulmer. How about David Cutcliffe? He's available, has Tennessee ties, and it would be a fitting bookend to the Fulmer era. He replaced a Tennessee legend after that legend lost ignominiously to South Carolina. Now it's Fulmer's turn. The numbers make it abundantly clear that he cannot or will not get the job done. By the way, for the current season, the Vols are averaging 15.8 points per game. Their opponents are averaging 16.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, October 28, 2005

UT vs South Carolina

The bookies have made this one a 14 point game with an over/under of 42, favoring Tennessee. Now, this is the part of the season where UT generally recovers from their swoon and starts playing football. Of course, this is also the part of the season where UT's schedule softens up considerably.

But you just can't take South Carolina lightly this year. After all, they played Georgia a lot closer than the Vols did. Unfortunately for Spurrier's Gamecocks, UT's defense should rise to the occasion once again and keep South Carolina out of the end zone. Unfortunately for the Vols, Randy Sanders impotent offense will also rise to the occasion and once again keep the Vols out of the end zone.

10-3 UT. Take South Carolina and the Under. And I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 24, 2005

Wide Receiver Who?

Remember back in the old glory days of Tennessee football, when UT was known as Wide Receiver U? You should because it wasn't so very long ago. Tennessee was known as a school that could recruit, develop, and play top flight wide receivers year in and year out.

So, name 5 top shelf wide receivers from the Fulmer era. Naah, lets make it even easier, name 5 wide receivers who could catch the ball and NOT fumble it into the end zone for a touch back instead of a touch down. Never mind that, let's make it even easier, name 5 receivers during the Fulmer era who could catch the damn ball when it hit them in the gol durn freakin' hands!

So, when was the last time UT lost to Florida, Georgia and Alabama all in the same season? That would be 2002.

You know, the stat we hear associated with Fulmer most often is his amazing win percentage, 78.8% as of this week. And why not? After all, that's a pretty impressive stat and when you couple it with a National Championship and 2 Conference Titles and four trips to the SEC championship in the last 8 years, surely Fulmer has done enough to prove he knows what he's doing.

At least, that's the argument I used to make whenever faced with the nay-sayers and doubters who claimed that the Championship was a fluke, the exception to an otherwise mediocre coaching job. The argument can go on for hours, and support several sports radio stations for weeks with each side venting their opinion with bluster and bombast, and the occasional sarcastic quip.

But let's take a closer look at some other stats and see what's really going on up on Rocky Top. Despite 9 players sent to the NFL in the first round since 1997, and leading the SEC in number of players drafted and number of players on the opening day roster, and despite being second in the nation in players drafted into the NFL since 1994, Tennessee:
  • Is 0-3 vs teams ranked #1.
  • Is 14-18 vs teams ranked in the top 10.
  • Is 7-6 in bowl games.
  • Is averaging just over one loss each season to a team ranked beneath them, including 7 losses to unranked teams when Tennessee was ranked.
  • Has finished the season ranked lower than the preseason ranking 6 out of 12 years. (Soon to be 7 out of 13.)


Folks, something is very wrong in Big Orange country. The short version is that the Vols routinely fail to live up to their potential. Winning a lot of games is great, but what do you say when even though you do win a lot of games, you consistantly lose games that you should have won? Despite all the top caliber players coming through Tennessee and moving on to the NFL, the Vols just aren't getting the job done when game day rolls around.

Who takes the blame for that?

The guy who's getting paid a couple of million dollars a year, that's who. He's had his assistants on board for years, and he's stood by them, particularly Randy Sanders, the often embattled offensive co-ordinator. But are they producing?

Using this year's Media Guide, the source for the numbers above, by the way, I ran a quick spreadsheet of the Vols performance during the Fulmer era. To keep it simple, I made two charts. The first shows the trends for how many points we score per game compared to how many points we allow per game. The second graphs the ratio between the two.
Fulmer_1881_image001.gif
Points scored and Points allowed

image002.gif
Points Scored/Points Allowed


The two graphs say everything that need to be said. We're scoring less and allowing more points, and it is a steady trend, not just a blip or a couple of bad seasons. The only thing offensive about Randy Sanders is the performance of his offense.

In fact, the offense is so bad that I tend to cut Chavis a little slack, since his players have had to carry the entire squad more often than not. In fact, despite facing 4 top ten teams so far, he's giving up only 16 points per game. Unfortunately for him, the offense is scoring less than 17 points per game.

The question of whether the Championship was a fluke or a true measure of Fulmer's coaching ability has been answered by the numbers. Since Fulmer took over in 1994, despite the 1998 championship, the team has been on a steady slide to mediocrity, and Fulmer has taken no steps to stop it. Since Fulmer is either unable to see that changes need to be made, or unwilling to make those changes himself, it is up to his boss to make an even bigger change.

Or the rest of us will just have to get used to 6-5 seasons and playing in the Music City Bowl.

Upset lock of the millenium Take Vandy and the points against Tennessee on Nov 19. The 'Dores are about to end the streak and win outright.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dear Coach Fulmer

I don't mean to be presumptuous; after all, you get paid millions of dollars to coach the UT football team while I get paid diddly squat to write these words. You've compiled a winning record that stands with the greatest coaches in the game, and you've done so with dignity and class. You've won the big games and the little ones, and most of the others in between, so it's hard for me to doubt you.

But I've been thinking, and I think that maybe, just maybe, you might want to reconsider your decision to make Eric "What the hell was he thinking" Ainge your starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

I'm sure Eric is a great kid with a lot of talent, and if he works very hard on his short passing game, he might become an SEC quarterback.

But he ain't quite ripe yet, and you've got an accomplished veteran quarterback in Rick Clausen who has done nothing for you but win games. You might remember that the heavy ring you wear on your hand came not from the kid with the best skills in the game, but from his backup, a kid who knew how to fight, how to lead a team, and ultimately, how to win a National Championship. You might remember another special backup, another 5th year player who stepped in when the starter went down and lead the Vols to glory in the 86 Sugar Bowl against the Hurricanes.

Great athletes are fairly common, but true leaders are very special and very rare; they don't come around all that often. Against all odds, you have been gifted with another one.

Don't screw it up and waste him. Rick Clausen is your starting quarterback. Get behind him and see just how far he will take you.

With a little luck, you might even get a couple more pieces of hardware to keep the first one company.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 17, 2004

That Does It!

Whoever called the plays in tonight's game against Ole Miss should be fired tomorrow morning.

Period.

2 possessions, two touchdowns, then the offense pulls into a shell and darn near loses the game. That's not the players' fault; that's coaching. I sat here at home on the couch and predicted 5 plays in a row, including the screen pass that was intercepted for a touchdown. If I can do that, you know darn well that Cutcliffe and his staff can do it.

I don't care whether Sanders or Fulmer made the calls; whoever it is doesn't play to win; they play not to lose, and that'll kill a football team.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Ok, we won the game after all. NOw, in the light of day, I've had the chance to calm down a bit and reconsider my hasty and intemperate words of last night. And after careful and sober reflection;

SOMEBODY STILL NEEDS TO BE FIRED!

No disrespect to Ole Miss, who played their guts out, but had we played any team in the top 25, we would be 4-2 and wondering what the heck happened to our season. Everyone in the stadium knew that on first down, Riggs would be running off tackle.

Hey Randy or Fulmer, a quick hint for you. If you run the same play on forst down for 2 frakin' quarters, it doesn't matter if you run it out of 57 different formations, you're not going to fool anybody.

Except maybe for Vandy.

The first two series showed that you had the players and the plan to whip Ole Miss. The rest of the game showed you didn't have the heart. A football team feeds on emotion; you coaches durn near starved your team last night.

It's a good thing I waited until I was calmer to write this.

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE:

Ok, I'm calmer now. No, really, I am. LAst week, after our thrashing of Georgia, I was disappointed by how the polls reacted, particularly the coaches poll, which bumped us from 17 to 14 while leaving the Bulldogs in the top 10, 6 places above us. That is patently ridiculous, right? Consider a similar situation ion the Big 10, where Wisconsin beat Purdue. Wisconsin jumped 5 places in the poll while Purdue dropped 7.

That's more like it.

So this is more proof of the bias against us at ESPN, right?

Wrong. ESPN and the folks in the coaches poll know our coaching staff, and accounted for it in their rankings. And when we played that horrible game agqinst Ole Miss, we confirmed their judgment. Don't cry about ESPN being biased. Look a little closer to home for the problem.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

NASCAR Has Lost All Credibility

I don't know how many of you are NASCAR fans, but for those of you that are, do you think they can sink any lower?

They revamped the points system to placate NBC, who cried all last year that they didn't have a points chase to drive viewership. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of the fans hate the system, as well as most of the drivers. (Well, those brave enough to defy NASCAR's gag order, anyway.)

They moved races around to spread the sport to the north and west, destroying decades of tradition like Labor Day at Darlington.

They injected new scoring rules into the sport that are so ill-considered and implemented that drivers spend 40+ laps waiting while the scorers try to figure out where everybody should be. And still get it wring.

They pay drivers to run a race just to keep up the illusion of a full field, despite the fact that many of these field fillers retire after 3 laps. Hell, Kirk Shelmerdine ran out of gas a few weeks ago because it was the first time he lasted long enough in a race to need to pit, and he forgot how.

They've started considering restricting who can sponsor a team, even though there are teams and drivers screaming for new sponsors, because of TV advertising restrictions.

Veteran drivers are running in second rate machines because the emphasis in NASCAR has switched from the driver's performance on the track to his appearance on camera. A great driver can outrun most of the young guns, but they can't outspend them.

So yeah, things are looking pretty bad for NASCAR, but it could be worse, right? I mean, sponsor and TV money may be altering the rules left and right, but at least there's still a semi-level playing field, right?

Nope.

For the entire first half of the season, Tony Stewart has been a driver out of control. He's spun other drivers repeatedly, both under the green and the yellow; he's been involved in a pit road mugging; he's broken NASCAR rules by walking out of driver's meetings. It's been a rare race this season where Tony hasn't sent somebody spinning into the wall.

And NASCAR has let him get away with it all.

A couple of weeks ago, after a race, Tony went over to Brian Vickers, and hit him. Just flat out hit him while he was strapped in and unable to fight back. A man does that and I think it's fair to call him a coward. I also think it's fair, particularly in light of a continued pattern of misbehavior, to sit his butt down for a race to demonstrate that this kind of behavior is unnacceptible.

And NASCAR agrees. They did exactly that to Kimmy Spencer a few years after he got into a fight with Kurt Busch.

Well, they used to agree. Tony Stewart was fined $50,000 and a meaningless 25 championship points. The points are meaningless because, under the new rules, the top ten drivers will have their points reset at the start of the last ten races. a loss of 25 points will mean at worst a change in position of 1 place and more likely mean no change in position when the championship run begins. In short, NASCAR did nothing to Stewart, and then NASCAR President Mike Helton said:
This action we've taken speaks for itself. Tony Stewart is well aware of what is expected of him going forward.


And he was right; Tony Stewart did get the message. Last Sunday, on a restart where he started in third, he jumped the restart and passed Sterling Marlin on the outside. Because he jumped the restart, he had the advantage of momentum as he came up on race leader Kasey Kahne, who was held up by traffic in front of him. Stewart tagged Kahne from behind, sending him spinning into the wall, along with several other cars. At the end of the race, Stewart tossed the race sponsor's product (Tropicana Orange Juice) to the ground as he got out of his car, with a smug smile for the cameras.

Just business as usual for Stewart.

And business as usual for NASCAR, who saw nothing wrong with the move, and will not penalize Stewart. Kahne's team, on the other hand, likely faces penalties of their own, for going to Stewart's pit, where a brawl erupted betweeen the crews. I'm sure NASCAR will make very grave and solemn announcements about how this behavior won't be tolerated, as they impose fairly severe penalties on Kahne's team. Of course, Kasey is running 14th right now, and isn't in serious contention for the points championship, so I'm sure NBC will allow NASCAR to penalize him.

Because that's what NASCAR has come to. Tony Stewart is untouchable because his sponsor, Home Depot, is a major NASCAR sponsor, and NBC, who owns the remaining races, wants him in the points race. Unless his actions hurt, or God forbid, kill another driver, he will continue to act like a bully on and off the track.

Since NASCAR lacks the spine to stand up to and control Stewart, it will be left up to the drivers to do so. What we saw in the pits Sunday afternoon is just a taste of what's coming. Drivers will not continue to risk their lives with an undisciplined brat like Stewart, and one way or the other, they will make that clear to him.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, January 12, 2004

A Costly Mistake for Green Bay

The Packers had the ball, the lead, and the momentum. Up by 3 with under three minutes left, all they needed was one yard to ice the game. 4th and 1 at the Eagle 41 yard line. Ahman Green had been running at will, and the Packer line was dominating the Eagle defense. The shortest run of the drive was a 2 yarder by Green; even Favre ripped off a 3 yard scramble.

This is a playoff game; win or go home. You only have a 3 point lead, against a quality quarterback who has the ability to create plays from nothing.

So, what do you do?

YOU GO FOR IT!

Every time! You don't give the other team the chance to strike. If you go for it and miss, you give up 20 yards, but if you make it, the game is over.

By punting, Sherman sent a message to his team, and to the Eagles; he wasn't playing to win. He was playing not to lose.

Ed Donatell picked up on the message and called a soft, prevent defense 4 plays later when the Eagles had the ball on 4th and 26, resulting in a 28 yard completion that lead directly to the tying field goal.

But the heroics by McNabb and company were an afterthought. The game had already been decided at 2:30 to go in the 4th. In championship play, situations arise where your resolve is tested, where your confidence in your team is taken to the limit. It is at those times that champions rise to the occasion and do more than they believed they could.

Sherman took the opportunity from them, and Green Bay lost.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, December 08, 2003

So Let’s Get This Straight…

The #2 and #3 ranked teams in the nation are now playing for the National Championship, while the #1 ranked team is playing for a consolation prize. And it is entirely possible that the eventual National Champion didn't even win their own conference. And it is highly probable that no matter who wins the Sugar Bowl, we will have a split National Champion? And that one of the top tier bowls couldn't find a better game than a rematch between two mediocre teams from in state?

It's a good thing we have the BCS system instead of that confusing poll thing we used to have.

PS: For all the Vol fans crying over the Peach Bowl. Guess what boys? When you play like crap your last game, lose badly in two key games, get utterly demolished in your last bowl appearance, and fail to sell out your last home game, be happy the Peach Bowl wanted you back.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Bud Bowl Was Getting Tired Anyway

Daimler Chrysler thinks they have a way to keep you glued to your seat during halftime at the Superbowl.
DaimlerChrysler's Dodge unit is sponsoring a pay-per-view "Lingerie Bowl" during halftime of the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 featuring models dressed in lingerie playing a seven-on-seven tackle football game.



Talk about pandering to the lowest common denominator.

It's going to cost $19.95. There's no way I'm going to shell out $20 to watch half naked women play football on TV.

I'll just wait and download it off Kazaa for free....

Posted by Rich
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Monday, November 10, 2003

Reality check

Saturday, the Vols came out and played hard, and got a big win. Fulmer surprised everybody by going for it all on 4th and goal at the 2, and made it pay off.

When you're overmatched, say, gambling in Las Vegas, if you take the safe bet, all you do is minimize your losses.

But you still lose.

The way to win when the odds are against you is to throw down big on the first bet, cutting down on the house advantage.

But was it genius, or desperation?

Tennessee ranks 9th in rushing, 8th in passing, and 10th in total offense in the SEC. Only Mississippi St. and Kentucky are worse. Fulmer knew his offense was not getting the job done, and he had to make the most of the opportunity.

So he went for it, and it paid off. But what does this win really mean for the future of the Vols? After reading the rosy coverage in the KNS, and hearing the folks on WNOX talking about getting to the SEC Championship, I have to throw the BS flag. We had fewer yards rushing than Miami had in penalties. The offense was held to under 200 yards. We won because of an outstnading defensive effort that forced three turnovers, recovered a 4th, and the 'Canes penalty laden performance.

The Vols most likely opponent in the SEC championship, Ole Miss or LSU, ranks 1st and 2nd in total offense. LSU also ranks 2nd in total defense. We can't hope that either team will pull a repeat of Miami's performance, so we'll have to see a tremendous improvement in the Vol offense if we hope to have a shot at winning the SEC.

And we're going to get the chance to play, because Georgia will lose to Auburn.

The good news is that Saturday's game reminded me of the '98 team. It wasn't always pretty, but the team alwaysfound a way to win. If the current team can keep that kind of intensity and attitude, we've got a chance.

And you can throw the stats out the window.

Vols 45 Miss St 14

UPDATE: According to the forecast, Saturday will be cold and rainy. WE all know how well Casey plays in bad weather, so I have to change my prediction.

Miss St 28 Vols 12

OK, it won't be that bad. Here's the real one:

Vols 28 Miss St 17

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

They’re not up to the Challenge

I went to the Duke game last Saturday because I didn't want to have to pay $45 to watch it on TV. #10 for the ticket, plus $5 for parking, $5 for a program, and $3 for a coke, and I saved $22!

A few notes from the game:
  • Watching Joey Kent and Stanley Morgan on the Jumbotron during the pre-game festivities threw the mediocrity of the current edition of the Vol offense in sharp relief.
  • If I can go to a football game in Nov. wearing jeans and a T-Shirt, this global warming thing is OK by me.
  • The Vols did not run through the T. They jogged. Some walked.
  • After the first 3 and out by the immortal Casey Clausen, even Bobby Denton sounded depressed.
  • I sat behind the student section, which was the only full section in the house.
  • In a remarkable show of disrespect for the Immortal Casey Clausen and the Vol offense, Duke won the toss, and elected to defer.
  • In an utterly predictable fashion, the Vol offense promptly lost 7 yards, going three and out, verifying Duke's estimate of their offensive capabilities.
  • Our best chance to score in the first half was taken away by the ref, who ruled a fumble was an incomplete pass.
  • The only signs of life in the stadium came when the FLA-GA score was announced.
  • If I were a Vol player, I'd be humiliated to see my fans paying more attention to a game in Florida, than a game in Knoxville. Watching those same fans celebrate with the "Gator Chomp" would drive me berzerk.
  • Page 12 of the game program includes this incredible insight: [Since Fulmer has been head coach], the Vols have finished in the top ten 6 times, including 6 top ten finishes. How perceptive!


Normally, I would pick Miami by about a million points, but the odd line from the Duke game, picking us to win by more points than we normally score, and the relatively low line for the Miami game(12.5) makes me suspicious.

Not that I think games are rigged or anything.

I'll pick Miami by 10 in a low scoring flag-fest.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Reality Check

Vols are favored by 26 points going in to thier homecoming game against Duke.

Interestingly, the Vols have scored 26 points or more only once during regulation play this season, and that was against Marshall. Yet the Bookies seem to belive that UT will win big over a team that took NC State to the wire last week.

I'm ppicking the Vols, but taking the points.

28-17 Vols.

Posted by Rich
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