I’m not sure what to make of Tennessee.
The stats (3-3 record, 11th in the SEC in total offense and defense) don’t show much. The status of the program has slipped so badly since 2007, the last time the Volunteers played for the SEC championship, that Sharrod Golightly put it best on Tuesday. Asked if he remembered a time when Tennessee was good, the USC spur replied that he was kind of young.
South Carolina is favored to win on Saturday, as it should be. The Gamecocks waltzed into a place where they have not been good historically and blew out Arkansas by 45 points. Their offense continued to shine and their defense hammered a point home — it’s been lousy in some fourth quarters this year, but overall, it’s played pretty well. I’m picking USC to win by at least two touchdowns, if not more.
But it’s on the road. Tennessee has had a week off to prepare, and is coming off a game that it probably should have won against Georgia, had Pig Howard been able to hold onto a ball as he stretched it toward the goal line.
The Vols’ wins have come against Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama, while the losses have come against Georgia, Oregon and Florida. In short, Tennessee has beaten the teams it was supposed to beat and lost to the teams it was supposed to lose to.
Tennessee, despite being on its third coach since Phillip Fulmer was fired, still has bad memories of the way Steve Spurrier used to torment it, on the field and off, while he was at Florida. Losing three in a row and four of five to Spurrier at USC has only made it worse, and the Vols would dearly love to snap that streak and hand Spurrier a loss near his hometown.
I don’t think it will happen, but preparing for Tennessee is a mysterious process.