Pecking order psychology

Over at Rocky Top Talk, they’re running through Tennessee’s schedule this season and the Georgia preview is now posted.  While it’s partisan (as it should be), it’s not rabidly so and the author makes a very cogent argument that this is the biggest game on the Vols’ slate this season.

… So on our schedule, this is the biggest game that we realistically have a chance in.  That to me makes it more important than Florida.  UCLA is of first importance, then Auburn…but if the Vols win those two, this becomes the greatest test.  Kiffin and the Vols will be asked to clear the bar at higher levels each week…but if Tennessee walks into this game 4-1, the Vols will truly have a chance for a one-year turnaround.  More than that, if the Vols want to get back in the annual SEC elite conversation, they don’t do that just with one stunning upset, but by consistently beating teams on their same level.  If Georgia has pulled even with Tennessee, the most important thing Tennessee can do is make sure they don’t pull ahead.  That starts this season in Knoxville.

Overall, that really is a good point.  In a way you can argue that this game represents the orange analogue to the Georgia-Tennessee game of 2001.  Just as Richt established his credibility as an SEC head football coach in that game (and David Greene established his credibility as an SEC starting quarterback), a win by Kiffin over the Dawgs this year would do much the same thing for him.

That being said, I’m a little skeptical of how far you can carry the analogy.  And that’s because I’m not sure I buy into some of the premises implicit in the RTT post.

First of all, speaking to the comparison between Richt’s and Kiffin’s first seasons in the SEC, while it may not have been completely apparent to us in 2001, it certainly became obvious in 2002 that (1) Donnan had left the cupboard very well stocked for Richt from a talent and depth standpoint and (2) Brian VanGorder was a huge upgrade at defensive coordinator over anyone that Donnan had employed in that position.  I don’t see where either of those conditions is operative in Knoxville this year.

And second, with all due respect, what’s with this “if Georgia has pulled even with Tennessee” line?  Maybe I missed something, but only one of these two programs has suffered through losing seasons recently, only one of these two programs has actually won an SECCG this decade and only one of these two programs has made multiple appearances in BCS games in the past few seasons.   Any talk of pulling even should have ended when Casey Clausen’s enrollment did.

Yes, I say that with the knowledge that UT is 3-2 in the last five games of the series.  And, yes, I say that with the knowledge that the last two of those Tennessee wins were beatdowns.  But that gets me to my last point here.

As storied a career as Monte Kiffin has had (and as good as Eric Berry freakin’ is), he’s not going to make the Vol defense appreciably better than it was last year.  Tennessee hasn’t recruited as consistently well as Georgia has over the past four seasons – that’s why they spent the big bucks putting that staff together, remember? – and that, along with several departures from Knoxville this offseason, means that the Vols aren’t as talented and aren’t as deep as Georgia is (something that I thought was already noticeable watching last year’s game).

So what you’re left with when you hold up that “pulling even” sign is that David Cutcliffe pwned Willie Martinez.  No argument there.  But, since Cutcliffe has traded orange for blue, what that boils down to in the here and now is whether the current UT offensive brain trust can do the same kind of number on Georgia with inferior talent.  While I can’t rule out that possibility, I don’t know how you can pretend it’s a given right now.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football, The Blogosphere

14 responses to “Pecking order psychology

  1. Joe B.

    Ufk is not even in the same area code with UGA as far as the programs are concerned.

    I would argue that Ufk’s victories were symptomatic of UGA’s belief, rightly garnered, that the program superiority leaves the Ufk matchup as an also-ran game. Ufk is basically the same as Scu in terms of matchup at this point.

    Ufk is a second-tier program, and has been since 2000. Unfortunately, our guys have prepared with the level of intensity that we have for UAB/Scu/UK and Fat and his crew were coaching to save their jobs in several of the last few meetings, and it got us beat.


  2. godawg

    I live just south of K’ville and even the kool-aid drank’in talking radio heads concede the Vols are very deficient on D in terms of talent and depth.

    Offensively they claim to be making strides but if it’s in practice against your own sucky D, who really knows?

    Bryce Brown may be a beast though…


  3. Christian

    The reason they are 3-2 against us is square on one man: David Cutcliffe. For whatever reason, he had our DEF figured out to a T.

    That said, I do agree with the premise of the Vile’s argument that the UTK/UGA is the biggest on their schedule. Win 7-8 games, beat UGA (maybe AU), and it would be a successful first year.

    I’d think the only thing we’d need to do to motivate us up there is show clips of the first half of our last visit to Knox-vegas.

    Go Dawgs!


  4. NCT

    While I doubt it was the intent, it’s possible to interpret the use of “pulling even” as meaning in the broad, over-all view and not in the current states of the programs. Tennessee has exactly one more conference championship than UGA, after all. If that’s the case, I would see it as a substantial compliment, since the Neyland years keep things weighted in UT’s favor.

    But currently? It seems to me that it’s Tennessee who’s trying not to get further behind.


  5. D.N. Nation

    UGA/UT ’08 was the most lopsided “close” victory I can remember. At no point did that game ever feel in doubt.

    Penn Wagers-and-Pals call an obvious PI in the EZ, and the score probably ends up being 31-6. Which is more like it.


    • 69Dawg

      If the SEC had anyone running the refs who wasn’t a Tech grad Penn Wages would have been suspended after the UT game. They made the call but did not give the correct penalty. It was a sandlot move by the biggest SOB ref in the SEC. He’s still pissed at the Celebration, I say he should rot in well you get the idea.


      • D.N. Nation

        Heck, I wasn’t even talking about that ridiculous call. I was referring to UT’s second INT, where the receiver was clearly pushed away from the ball.

        Penn is a dope.


        • Left to Right

          I was sitting in end zone seats for that game and Berry (to his credit) clearly got away with a push off on that interception. It was why the receiver seemed so out of position and the ball looked so poorly thrown.


  6. Macallanlover

    You cannot argue the conclusion, if TN is 4-1 going into the Georgia game, and were to win, that WOULD pretty much insure a great one-season turnaround. The much bigger problem for UT is, winning the UCLA and Auburn games. This should be their primary focus this season because not only are they significantly more winnable, but because losing one or both of those games, which is also very possible, could absolutley spiral them to another butt-ugly losing season. They simply cannot afford another 5-7 year for recruiting purposes.

    It is laughable for even a fan of UT to deny they are not trailing UGA at this point. They had better be more concerned about how Vandy, SC, and KY are closing the gap on their backside. Not saying UGA cannot lose this game because we have given them 2 this decade (and laid down once), but UGA is significantly better than this 2009 UT team.


  7. Richt-Flair

    Wagers makes it up as he goes along. That MoMass call in the UT game was his Picasso.


    • Ty Durden

      That man has to be on Federal protection 24/7. I can’t imagine he ever drives through the state of GA for ANYTHING. Im pretty sure someone wouldve put a brick through his car window if they recognized him. Makes it like playing 2 teams when hes out there, so it seems anyway


      • Joe B.

        Wagers’ life is like a DBT song made good:

        “There wasn’t but 14 of us on the team. I had to play offense and defense,” he says.

        When it came time to go to college, nobody recruited Wagers. Like his team, he was too small. And just like that, his dream was cut short. After graduating from Trident Technical College, he went to work at a local paper mill. Though the pay was good, the work was hard and the hours were long. A friend of his tried to talk him into refereeing football.

        Wagers scoffed at the idea: “I had always wanted to play. I never thought about being a ref.”

        But after watching that same friend repeatedly come home with extra spending money, Wagers decided it was worth a shot.

        His kid played with AJ Green at Summerville.


  8. Castleberry

    How did this turn into a Penn Wagers post? Please ask Rocky Top Talk if I can borrow his time machine when he gets back from the 90’s.


  9. That game is positively enormous for Kiffin. And he’s right…the biggest games on their schedule are UCLA, AU and UGA…probably UK next. He can’t be the first coach to lose to the Cats since the early ’80s…but that’s a very reason possibility in Lexington this year.

    BTW — our game with them is likely a noon start (See, the Times-Free Press today or my site for an explanation). I think that early start time helps us and hurts their crowd’s ability to really get worked up.