Mark Blaudschun

Here's the first real sleeper of the season. The Volunteers are the headscratcher of the SEC. Let's look at some numbers. 17 starters coming back who won 9 games last season. The have a quarterback in Joshua Dobbs who can run the offense and a defense which can stop a lot of offenses. They get Alabama at home. They get Florida at home.

But then we hear this chatter: Tennessee can't close the deal. Coach Butch Jones talks a good game, but the Volunteers seldom do it when it counts--and never against the teams that matter. Nine straight losses to Alabama, 11 straight losses to Florida. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

And then when it gets close, the Vols don't close. The four Tennessee losses last season were by seven or fewer points. Three losses came when the Vols lost the lead in the final minutes.

The non-conference schedule is intriguing. The opener is a Watch Out game against Appalachian State (see App State at Michigan a few years ago). The second game is against Virginia Tech at a Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. which could draw an all time record crowd for a college football game. There aren't a whole lot of gimmes.

Crash and burn time?

So many questions, so many doubts. But A Jersey Guy likes long shots with a chance. The Vols have a chance for double digit wins, which puts them in the hunt. We think.

The countdown thus far: No. 16 Pepper Hamilton (Baylor), No. 15 Georgia, No. 14 Michigan State , No. 13 Miami, No. 12 Houston, No. 11 Ohio State, No. 10Stanford, No. 9, [/membership]


Mark Blaudschun