It’s November. That’s what Tennessee does.

I swear, I’ll never understand the significance people have attached to the last four games of Tennessee’s 2010 regular season.

… Tennessee showed signs in its first season under Derek Dooley that he might be the man to revive Tennessee’s flagging fortunes. After all, the Vols had been defeated by at least two touchdowns in five of their last seven games when Dooley sparked the turnaround, a milestone that would have marked the end of the season for a poorly-coached football team…

That “turnaround” took place against Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  None of those teams finished 2010 with a winning record; in fact the four combined for a total of only 13 wins.  The Vols didn’t leave the state to play three of those games.  And they never lose to Vandy or Kentucky.  So exactly why is this considered a big deal?

I’m not saying that Tennessee won’t have an improved record this season.  The schedule is friendlier, so it’s certainly a possibility.  But pointing to a four-game win streak against weak sisters as grounds for the proposition that the program (and Tyler Bray, for that matter) is ascending?  I’m not ready to make that leap.

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26 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

26 responses to “It’s November. That’s what Tennessee does.

  1. NCT

    Srsly. I’ve had similar thoughts regarding South Carolina’s reputation of late-season swoons. It’s not a precise converse in difficulty of Tennessee’s easy November, but finishing up with Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, and Clemson ain’t exactly a walk in the park.

  2. UFTimmy

    We call it “Volsheimers”. After getting beat by UF, and cruising through November, it’s their insistence that they are a much better team now.

  3. NRBQ

    Strenuous kick-box training techniques at Bar Knoxville.

  4. Simply saying “look at the opponents” isn’t a full accounting of what Tennessee is doing. Yes, most teams would have folded after starting the season out the way the Vols did. Don’t forget, they nearly lost to UAB at the beginning of the season; defeating even last season’s Ole Miss team by 38 points is an improvement against that.

    I’m not saying — and wasn’t trying to imply — that Tennessee is going to emerge as an SEC East contender this year. But did I see reason to think they’ve improved? Yes.

    As for the overarching narrative of Tennessee’s season laid out here — let’s see, beginning-of-the-season implosion followed by a rally against the weaker part of the schedule, with a quarterback whose passer rating was significantly higher (about 20 points) against losing teams than against winning teams and is expected by the program’s fans to be an All-SEC caliber player — who does that remind me of? Oh, yeah. Georgia.

    • I love you, man, but you’ve sure laid out a couple of straw men here.

      First, who said anything about UT being a contender for the East this year? All I’m pointing out is that this confidence in UT’s 2011 improvement based on its 2010 November seems misplaced. Second, maybe you haven’t noticed, but lately I haven’t exactly been predicting greatness for Georgia either; in any event, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? (And doesn’t a 27-point spread in Athens in the middle of that “weaker part of the schedule” you note punch a hole in your equivalency argument anyway?)

      Again, UT may be better. Its record probably will be because this year’s schedule is softer. But I just don’t see how you can point to four wins against crappy teams as the reason to explain why the program is on the rise. Especially when you don’t mention the subsequent loss in the bowl game to a sub-par opponent. (Sorta like Georgia! See, I can do it, too. ;) )

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        All UT has to do to get to a bowl this year is beat the 4 walkover OOC teams on its schedule (yes, Cincinnati is a walkover team now) and then beat Vandy and UK. That is exactly what I predict that UT will do.

    • You forgot bowl game meltdown vs. opponent from vastly inferior conference.

  5. Mike

    It is a Tennessee tradition. Traditionally, the easiest part of their schedule is in November. Therefore, when they go undefeated in November, even after losing in September (usually to the Mighty Gators) and October, they then will claim to be playing the “best football in the nation.”

    This habit was especially prevalent during the Spurrier years.

  6. BeerMoney

    Hence this is why Fulmer was known as “Mr. November” too. The man simply did not lose in November…and we all know why.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      I am actually ashamed for Vanderbilt and Kentucky. All those years of losing to UT and now when UT stinks they still can’t get the job done. Kentucky has actually had better teams than UT 5 out of the last 6 years and still lost to them every year.

      • Macallanlover

        Kentucky should have won 3 of the last 4-5 games against TN either because they were better, or were in a position to end the losing streak late in the game against a team that only had comparable talent. You have to work hard to screw that up, but KY has found a way. They should be ashamed of their performance, choking is the operative word here.

  7. Go Dawgs!

    Getting all whipped into a frenzy over finishing strong is the way that Tommy Bowden was able to extend his stay in Clemson for an additional four or five years. It’s also how Georgia ended up being ranked #1 preseason in 2008. Simply put, the end of one season isn’t necessarily a great predictor for the start of the next, good OR bad. I will say that watching Tennessee late in the year, particularly in the bowl game, I did get the feeling that they were a better football team than they were when they played in Athens. But, lots of teams get better as the year wears on.

    • I believe it was Mike Elkon over at Braves and Birds who had a long-running thing called the “Charles Rogers Theorem” which he used to pick out teams that were being wildly overvalued in a given preseason. Playing markedly better over the second half of the season than the first (and/or winning big in a bowl game) was one criteria; imbalance between skill positions and lines (or offense and defense) was another.

  8. Russ

    OT – I just saw that one of Richt’s “thugs”, Leonard Pope, was in the news today.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Chiefs-TE-Pope-saves-six-year-old-boy-from-drown?urn=nfl-wp2597

    • Krautdawg

      The same Leonard Pope who convinced several of his NFL teammates to follow him to Americus (Americus!) to hold a free football camp for kids back in April? Staight thuggin’.

  9. Normaltown Mike

    It’s like the Menendez Brothers asking for mercy…because they are orphans!

  10. Cojones

    Who the hell is Fibro Myalgia (Someone didn’put caps on his last name so this is a guess)? How did he escape our radar?

    • Dog in Fla

      Because he’s small, slow and tires easily. He’s rated at 3 1/2 stars because Nick is looking at him. However, Nick is lonly ooking at him as an easily verifiable medical DQ to get credibility so Michael Adams can pen another WSJ op-ed about how compassionate the League is.

    • Normaltown Mike

      Isn’t that what you get from working on the docks?