Posts Tagged ‘Sylvester Croom’

2009 SEC Preview: Mississippi State

2009 SEC Football Previews | Gate 21

After Mississippi State beat Central Florida to win the Liberty Bowl two years ago, it appeared that State had taken a step forward. It was the Bulldogs’ first bowl since 2000 (remember the snowy Independence Bowl win over Texas A&M?). Coach of the Year Sylvester Croom had looked to finally have broken through.

But State lost at Louisiana Tech to open last year, and two weeks later gave up just three points at home to Auburn…and still lost, in arguably the most futile offensive game in the history of football. The Bulldogs did beat Vanderbilt when the Commodores were ranked in the nation’s top 15 and beat Arkansas late in the year.

Any good feelings created by the Arkansas win were squashed by an abysmal performance in the 45-0 Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss, in which State had just 37 yards of offense. Croom resigned the following day.

State hired Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen a couple of weeks later, and he brought in a recruiting class ranked #19 by Scout and #25 by Rivals. Mullen coached quarterbacks under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and Utah, becoming Florida’s offensive coordinator when Meyer was hired in 2005.

So now a team that’s been known for their ability to run the football now begins the transition to Mullen’s spread-type offense. There’s obviously reason for optimism surrounding the Mississippi State program (starting at the top…), and it’s possible Mullen can bring success to Starkville. But then again, it’s Mississippi State. All I know is that Mullen’s got quite the work ahead of him to get State back to a respectable level, and it could be a rough year.

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SEC Football Power Poll: Final 2008 Season Poll Ballot

Check out the Full Poll Results at Garnet and Black Attack!

Final 2008 Season Poll

Well, as we try to dig out of the snow that has covered everything in my neck of the woods, I am trying to get caught back up.  Yes, I admit it I’ve been lazy these past few days and haven’t posted a darn thing.

Back in the saddle, here we go…

Yes sports fans, the 2008 college football season is in the books.  We here at Gate 21, along with fellow fans of the other SEC teams hated to see it go so much that we drug out our final voting for as long as we could.  Try as we might, however, football season is over.  Thus, here is my last ballot in the SEC Power Poll for the 2008 season, along with an feeble attempt at explaining why I’m such a moron.

In all its radiant glory:

Rk.

Team

Change

Comments

1.

Florida Gators

1

No matter how much I dislike them or how hard I might try, the Florida Gators are the National Champions, and thus are deserving of the No. 1 spot in the final poll, no questions asked.

Sucks, don’t it?

2.

Ole Miss Rebels

2

Pre-season, I’d have said you were crazy if you told me that the Ole Miss Rebels would be my No. 2 team at season’s end, but they earned it.

With their strong finishing victory against Texas Tech, their 9-4 overall record, their amazing improvement over last year, and their having been the only team to beat Florida they earned it.

Nice job by the Right-Reverend Nutt.

3.

Georgia Bulldogs

No change for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Sure, they beat Michigan State, but it wasn’t pretty and they were supposed to win.  A solid season, but a disappointing one nonetheless.

On another note, I’m sure gonna miss Larry Munson, though…

4.

Alabama Crimson Tide

3

Well, the Alabama Crimson Tide took notched two lop-sided losses since the last regular season ballot.  The Florida loss was (in my mind) expected.  The Utah blow-out was not.  Thus, the Tide falls a few spots for a lapse in focus.

Still, a nice season for a team full of freshmen and sophomores.

5.

Vanderbilt Commodores

2

The Vanderbilt Commodores were supposed to be average this season.  They were supposed to putz along, business as usual.  They were supposed to lose to Boston College.  So much for “supposed tos.”

Here’s to Vandy, to showing everyone they still know how to Show their Gold!

6.

(tie)

Kentucky Wildcats

The Kentucky Wildcats won their bowl game against East Carolina — earning them their first win against a team with a winning record.  That’s hardly impressive, and they hang on to their spot by the narrowest of margins.

6.

(tie)

LSU Tigers

2

Most folks thought that Georgia Tech would give the LSU Tigers fits.  In the end, the only fits were the withdrawal pains of the Tiger faithful when they quit selling beer at the Georgia Dome at the start of the 4th quarter.

Nice finish to a rollercoaster season.

8.

South Carolina Gamecocks

3

The South Carolina Gamecocks hoped to end their late-season slide against Iowa.  Nice idea, but one which simply failed to come together.  Still, considering they started with 2 conference losses, not all that bad.

Hey, at least they got to go to a bowl.

9.

Tennessee Volunteers

I had half a mind to give the Tennessee Volunteers a bump up due to all the excitement surrounding new coach Lane Kiffin, but I couldn’t in good conscience do that.

Next year, however, should be fun in Knox-vegas.

10.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

“There’s nothing to see here, please disperse.  The cow-bell clanging you hear is all a figment of your imagination.”

This was a tough one for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, and I hated to see Sly Croom—my pre-season coach of the year—go, but he did about as well as he could given the situation he inherited.

11.

Arkansas Razorbacks

1

The Arkansas Razorbacks showed some real improvement during the middle of the season, but faded at the end.  Still, Bobby Petrino didn’t quit mid-season to go coach the German National Swimming team, so there’s that, too.

12.

Auburn Tigers

1

Yeah, I dropped the Auburn Tigers a spot.  Any fan base who attacks their new coach before he even coaches a game earns that due to the divisive nature of their actions.  Of course, I understand they blame the AD.  Still, a tough situation for new head coach Gene Chizik.

Well, there you have it.  My final ballot for 2008.  Hopefully, the powers that be will ask me back for another round in the fall.  Either way, it has been fun indeed.  Do not, however, be dismayed—I’ll be posting my SEC Basketball Power Poll ballot in the next day or so.

The Rest of the Power Poll

Now that you have wasted your time looking at my ballot, go check out what everybody else is saying over at Garnet and Black Attack, where the final poll results will be posted Wednesday-ish.

– Go Figure …Email lawvol


An Open Letter to the Vol Nation: A Manifesto on Past, Present, and Future

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21
[Note:  This post is exceptionally long—even for me—and I apologize for this.  I simply felt that a lot of these things needed saying, and I really haven't heard them elsewhere.  Thus, if you'll forgive my long-windedness,  I promise there is a point to this.  I just felt this that this isn't a simple issue, and thus I needed to explain.  -Lawvol]

Of all the posts I have ever written as a blogger, all the comments I have ever posted on message boards and other blogs, all the public professions I have ever made regarding the Tennessee Volunteers, this one is by far the most difficult one for me.  I’d really rather not be in the position of feeling it necessary to write this.  To fail to address the issue, however, would be to ignore the giant looming cloud over the heads of all of the Vol-faithful, regardless of their thoughts or position.

www.tennesseefansite.com-2Obviously, I am talking about the “situation” with the Tennessee Football coaching staff.

For the record, I am a Phillip Fulmer fan.  I believe that he has done more for the Tennessee program than anyone else over the last fifteen years.  I credit him with taking Tennessee from the mish-mash of the middle tier of college football and propelling the Vols to the very pinnacle of success.  I credit him with bringing the program into the modern era.  I credit him with making many of the things to which we as Tennessee fans have become accustomed possible.  I like Coach Fulmer, or the “Great Punkin” as I routinely refer to him (with no slight or insult intended).

I guess that makes me a homer

To the best of my recollection, the only time I have ever openly criticized the Tennessee coaching staff was during the past off-season when off-field incidents involving Vol footballers were escalating alarmingly, by my mind calling into question the integrity of the program and the University of Tennessee itself.  Aside from that, I have always refrained from going after the coaches like so many seem to want to do.  I wrote a little about this after the UCLA game, stating:

… I would say that I am more appropriately a Homer for all coaches across the landscape of college football who are constantly questioned, rebuked, and derided by tens of thousands of come-lately armchair geniuses.

It is a peculiar characteristic of so many fans that they believe that simply being a follower of a team for a given length of time makes them an expert on how things should be done.  Make no mistake, as a sports blogger, I am as guilty of this offense as anyone—at least to some extent.  There are things that anyone with a brain can assess and analyze based purely upon common sense, life experience, and the fluff that resides between our ears.

* * * * *

These sorts of basic truths are fairly and frankly within the grasp of us all, and thus the rightful ability to comment on such profundities resides with each and every person who follows college football.  In much the same vein, I think it is reasonable for many (note, I did not say “all”) long-term fans of the sport to comment on what a given team does, or in most cases, did.

Beyond that, however, it seems to me that trying to profess what the best way to coach a football team—a team to which most have no access except through their televisions—is an endeavor which necessarily makes the speaker feel smart and important, while simultaneously making them look foolish and arrogant.

I have absolutely no idea about what it takes to coach a major college football team.  I’m completely clueless.  Furthermore, I have no idea what it is like to play on such a team.  Again, clueless.  I am also willing to bet that most who are attacking Phil Fulmer and the Tennessee coaching staff at present share my level of experience and insight.  So, at a minimum, I guess I am among equally-ignorant equals when it comes to assessing the coaches.

Unlike many others, however, I am not going to attack the Great Punkin, Dave Clawson, John Chavis, or any of the other coaches.  I am simply going to speak about what I do know and speak from the heart:

Though I first watched Tennessee under Coach Majors, most of my life as a Tennessee fan, student, and alum has been during the tenure of Coach Fulmer.  I think he is a man of integrity, a man of honor, a skilled and adept football coach, and a great leader and teacher for the young men he coaches.  I have such deep respect for what he has done.  In his 17-year career as Tennessee’s head coach, Fulmer is 148-47-1 (.759), he has won 10 or more games in a season nine times, he has won or tied for the SEC East title seven times, he has won 2 SEC Championships, and the 1998 National Championship.  I remember all of these “good old days” like they were yesterday.

Coach Fulmer has done a lot, a whole lot…

By the same token, things simply have not been good for the Vols for some time now.  Here are a few statistics:

  • Last SEC Championship: 1998 (No Coach in UT history had a longer drought and retained their job)
  • Last BCS Game Appearance: 1999
  • Only one Top-10 finish this decade (2001)
  • Last 50 Games 32-18 (.648) [Johnny Majors was 39-9-2 (.780 wins only / .820 wins & ties) over his final 50 games]
  • Failed to finish in the Top-25 twice this decade in any poll and finished 25th in the AP in 2000 (unranked in Coaches Poll)
  • Signed a recruiting class outside the Top-20 in two of the past three seasons
  • 5-12 versus Florida all-time
  • 14-13 in the last 27 SEC Games
  • 28-27 (.509) versus Current SEC Coaches
    • 0-4 versus Urban Meyer (Florida)
    • 1-2 versus Les Miles (LSU)
    • 3-4 versus Mark Richt (Georgia)
    • 1-3 versus Nick Saban (LSU & Alabama)
    • 5-8 versus Steve Spurrier (Florida & South Carolina)
    • 3-3 versus Tommy Tuberville (Ole Miss & Auburn)
  • Coach Fulmer has a winning record of 15-3 against Rich Brooks (Kentucky), Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State), Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt), and Houston Nutt (Arkansas only)

Over the last decade (since 1998) the Tennessee Volunteers under Fulmer are:

  • 1-8 (.111) at home versus Top-10 Teams
  • 17-23 (.425) versus ranked teams
  • 13-21 (.382) versus Florida, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, and Alabama
Statistical Analysis Courtesy of: Tony Basilio.com

These numbers speak volumes…

Of course, I am enough of a realist to understand that no team—whether Tennessee, Southern Cal, or the Green Bay Packers—can have a championship year every year.  Every great team has bad years.  It just seems that it has been a long time since Tennessee has had a truly good year.  I freely acknowledge that in 2007 Tennessee had what, on paper, looks like a good year.  In 2007, the Vols went 10-4 and won the SEC East.  That said, even the most stalwart Vol fan would have to admit that Tennessee won the SEC East in a highly unorthodox manner.  Tennessee was beaten in the 2007 season opener versus California 45-31.  Two weeks later the Vols were annihilated by the Florida Gators 59-20 and were subsequently thumped by the Alabama Crimson Tide 41-17.  The only reason that the Vols made the trip to the  SEC Championship Game was that—under league rules—the tie went to Tennessee since the Vols defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in head-to-head competition.  In other words, the Orange and White backed into the Eastern Division title.

Prior to that, really since the 2001 season, the Vols have underperformed versus SEC and national rivals, and have—at best—been a mediocre team from a statistical perspective.  During that time, I cannot recount the number of times that the Vols have barely beaten teams that were wholly inferior in terms of talent.  What’s more, the Volunteers have regularly failed to meet the expectations of fans and analysts when considered against teams with similar recruiting classes and resources.  Then of course there was the 2005 season, or—as Joel at RTT describes it—“The Season of Which We do not Speak in which Tennessee recorded a 5-6 record.

It seems that Tennessee has struggled at every turn since winning the 1998 Championship…

Jump forward to this year and the UCLA game, in which Tennessee loses to a UCLA team which the Vols were projected to beat handily.  As I and others have said, there is absolutely no reason that the Vols should have lost that game.  To make bad matters worse, since defeating the Vols, the Bruins have gone on to lose two more games in which they failed to score a single touchdown for the first time in 44 years. (HT Get the Picture)  Tennessee then managed a lackluster win over a clearly out-matched UAB team before playing the Florida Gators.  As I said in my “Marching Orders” piece earlier this week, that game was one of the poorest displays I’ve ever seen from a Vols squad.

Although I cannot really recall when it all started, the Tennessee fanbase began growing restless as early as 2002.  Even then, there was a small but vocal minority of fans that felt it was time for Fulmer to go.  Those voices of criticism were largely ignored by the masses until now.  After the Florida defeat, those voices have swelled to the point that they can no longer be ignored.  Just looking at the Vol-blogosphere, there are fewer and fewer that support Fulmer and even more voices criticizing than ever before—including 3SIB’s Ghost of Neyland, SouthEastern Sports Blog, YMSWWC, Curveballs for Jesus, BasilioMoonDog, the absurd Coacho Ocho, and Gate 21’s own HSH.

So here I am…

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SEC Power Poll: Preseason

Check out the Full Poll Results over at Garnet and Black Attack

As was the case with the College Football BlogPoll, the infinite wisdom of those responsible for the SEC Power Poll is now also shown to be seriously lacking.  Why?  Because Power Poll Administrator and guru CockNFire over at Garnet and Black Attack has thrown reason to the wind and allowed Gate 21 to join the mix — a sure sign that Power Poll is doomed.

Be that as it may, on this first week of the 2008 Power Poll, since there have been no games played, we the pollsters have been charged with the task of ranking the current head coaches for the SEC schools.  Given my complete inability to follow conventional wisdom, I have a somewhat unusual No. 1 — a point that I’m sure will leave both of my readers scratching their heads.

Either way, here’s my ballot (with my contorted rationalizations as to why I believe such foolish things):

SEC Power Poll — The Coaches

1.  Sylvester CroomMississippi State

A lot of folks will probably think I am crazy for tabbing Sly Croom as the top coach in the SEC, but I really do strongly feel that he is deserving, and is the best coach in the SEC at present.  I know I’m going to have to defend this one, probably.

I discussed my reasons for choosing Croom as the best in Week 4 of the Big Orange Roundtable (Question 5).  In that response, I wrote:

When Croom took over, the Bulldogs were awful — they just plain sucked.  After 3 years of winning only 3 games, however, Croom finally seemed to turn the corner in Starkville in 2007 finishing 8-5 (4-4 SEC) for the season — the first winning season for Miss. State since 2000.

While I realize his win / loss record is not what it could be (17-30 overall) managing to bring the Bulldogs back to respectability is, in my book, a major accomplishment.  Let’s be frank here, it’s called “Stark“ville for a reason.  Recruiting for the Bulldogs is probably as challenging as any other school in the SEC, perhaps with the exception of Vanderbilt.  Yet, somehow, Croom has managed to right the ship and bring the program back from the bowels of football hell.

What’s more, this year’s team returns 14 starters — all of whom were recruited by Croom — and looks to be set to make another strong showing this year.  They should be even better than they were in 2007, and I’d be highly surprised if the Bulldogs don’t end up in a bowl this year.  I have real fear when it comes to the Vols’ game against the Bulldogs this year.  My only hope is that the boys in orange don’t “overlook” the cowbell clan — if they do, they will lose.

For me a coach’s overall record is not nearly as important as their ability to demonstrate progress in moving toward a goal — is the program better, worse, or the same as it was when the coach arrived on campus.  Winning 9 games in your first season at Florida followed by a national championship is not nearly as significant to me as managing to drag a program which has collapsed back to success.  Sly Croom has lost a lot of games in Starkville over the past few years, but it appears that he has finally managed to get the program back on track.  That impresses me a great deal, and that is why he’s at the top of my list.

2.  Mark RichtGeorgia

Here I return back to the thoughts of the masses.  It is difficult to argue with Richt’s successes at Georgia.  In seven years as head coach, he’s had five 10-win (or more) seasons.  Over that time period he has garnered three BCS bowl bids for the Bulldogs, has had a 72-19 (40-16 SEC) record, and earned two SEC Championships.  That is impressive.

My only criticisms of Richt (which keep him out of first place) are that he has failed to win a national championship for the Dawgs or contend for one.  Of course, the same can be said for Sylvester Croom.  The reason I hold this against Richt is due to the state off the Georgia program when he took over the reins.  The year before Richt was hired, “Whisperin’ Jim” Donnan led the Dawgs to an 8-4 (5-3 SEC) record and a bowl.  That is not exactly a derelict program.

Thus, even though Richt has advanced the Bulldog program from where it was, he has one more step to go before he — in my twisted mind — manages to match the level of improvement Croom has brought to Mississippi State.

3.  Tommy TubervilleAuburn

Tommy Tuberville has been quietly building a great tradition down on the plains.  Since taking over in in 1999, Tuberville has amassed a 80-33 (49-23 SEC) record, an SEC championship, and has pretty much owned the Iron Bowl.  He has also used about 5,000 gallons of hair shellac.  Tuberville’s teams always seem as prepared as any team in the country on gameday, which is as impressive as it is rare these days.  His strong record and proven system puts him right near the top in my book.

All of that said, Auburn is always seemingly right on the cusp of winning a championship, but never seem to be able to finish the deal.  For that reason, he’s only third.

4.  Les MilesLSU

It’s hard to argue with the power of the hat over the past three years.  The reason Miles comes in at number four, rather than higher up the chain is due to the fact that he is just beginning to field teams peopled with players he has recruited.  Furthermore, going back to my “advance the program” notion, when Miles took over the Tigers were coming off of a 9-3 (6-2 SEC) season.  It’s pretty easy to win in that situation.

If he continues to win going forward, then he will most definitely move up.

5.  Urban MeyerFlorida

Meyer has won a BCS title game and has racked up an impressive record since taking over in 2005.  My criticisms of Meyer largely mirror those I made for Miles with one addition.  In 2007 Meyer’s Gators showed real weakness on offense (against everyone but the Vols, that is … ugh).  A lot of that weakness appeared to come from Meyer’s belief in a system which doesn’t meaningfully employ the running back.  In my opinion a team cannot sustain success without that.  What’s more, he seemed to rely a little too much on Tebow, which further made the Gators one-dimensional on offense.

6.  Great PunkinTennessee

Phillip Fulmer has been the head coach of Tennessee Volunteers for 14 years.  He is the senior-most coach in the league and has an impressive record, including a BCS title, two SEC Championships, and has three additional SEC East titles.  Fulmer has been consistent, but over the past few years has probably been a bit too consistent in failing to reach the top level of the polls and BCS bowl games.

Though I think Phil Fulmer is one of the great coaches of college football, over the past few years the program has not seemed to be advancing as much as it has been holding position.  The addition of Dave Clawson as offensive coordinator along with a new scheme may, however, change that and result in Fulmer’s stock rising once again.

7.(tieRich BrooksKentucky

Rich Brooks has done a nice job at Kentucky over the last four years.  He wins more than he loses and appears to run a clean program.  Every now and then, he has managed to win a big game.  Kentucky is respectable, but really not much more than that.  Thus, it’s hard for me to place him much higher.

7.(tieHouston NuttOle Miss

Were Houston Nutt still at Arkansas, he would probably rank higher.  He was consistent and recruited some stellar players while coaching the Hogs.  That said, he never seemed to be able to push the team to the championship level.  Now that he is at the helm of the Ole Miss Rebels, he has his work cut out for him.  If he can turn it around, then he will rise quickly in my eyes, but Oxford has not been very kind to coaches over the past decade.  The old adage that “there is nowhere to go but up,” simply isn’t true — for Nutt and Ole Miss, “sideways” is a real possibility.

9.  Steve SpurrierSouth Carolina

A decade ago, “The Ole Ball Coach” would have been my hands-down choice for best coach in the country.  Whatever it is that he did while coaching the Washington Redskins, however, changed that.  While his Gamecocks have posted solid overall records since 2005, they have never had any meaningful success in the SEC.  That is not going to win you any coaching awards.

10.  Bobby JohnsonVanderbilt

Vanderbilt is a tough place to coach and win.  I realize this.  Still, I think it is reasonable to expect a winning season every five years or so.

11.  Nick SabanAlabama

Slick Nicky has real coaching abilities — there is no question about that (as the Vols learned last year).  That said, I give Saban this low rating largely on principle.  For what he is getting paid, a 7-6 (4-4 SEC) record isn’t enough.

12.  Bobby PetrinoArkansas

Bad hire.  He is a mercenary coach who is only interested in where he can get the most money on a given day.  I give him four years — max — before he moves on to greener pastures leaving Arkansas with little to show for it.

The Rest of the BlogPoll

Now that you have wasted your time looking at my ballot, go check out what everybody else is saying over at Garnet and Black Attack.  I will also try to update this post with links to the other pollsters’ ballots as soon as I can.

How long do you think it will be before they kick me out?

– Go Figure …Email lawvol


Big Orange Roundtable: Week 4 Round-up

It’s Official, I’m a Blowhard!

All of the Roundtable bloggers agreed on this one point in their answers to this week’s questions as posed by yours truly.  What’d they expect from a lawyer?

Anyway, aside from that revelation, here’s what Ye Mystic Knights of the Roundtable had to say in response to my ridiculous inquiries:

1) Thus far we’ve made a number of predictions for the 2008 Vols. Now, let’s take the next step: What are your pre-season predictions for each of Tennessee’s regular season games this year (along with any explanations you feel are needed)?

Fulmer’s Belly with acronym madness, Loser With Socks (with the exception of calling Auburn a tossup), and the SouthEastern Sports Blog took the hard line by making it clear that they cannot pick against Tennessee. I can completely relate with this and fully concur in Will thoughts:

For one, I think the vast majority of us in Vol Nation still believe that Tennessee is good enough to win every game they play.

* * * * *

The phrase I’ve used most often in the two-plus years of this blog’s existence is some form of “The SEC is good enough that anybody can beat everybody. And Tennessee is still good enough to beat anybody every single week.”

* * * * *

… so what you’re most likely to get from me every week is something like “How the Vols can win this week” instead of “Will the Vols win this week?” throughout the year.

I like that kind of optimism, and in reality that is exactly what I will be doing each week. That said, the rest of the Roundtablers generally agreed that the Vols would go 10-2 this season (with the exception of YMSWWC who picked the Vols to go 9-3) generally agreed on the games where Tennessee was most likely to fall a bit short, here’s how they fell:

Opponent

Gate 21

3SIB

Rocky Top Talk

YMS WWC

Power T

MoonDog

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/Pac-10/FB-UCLA.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/C-USA/FB-UAB.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Florida.png

Loss

Win

Loss

Loss

Loss

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Auburn.png

Loss

Loss

Loss

Loss

Win

Loss

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/MAC/FB-NIU.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Georgia.png

Win

Loss

Win

Win

Loss

Loss

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-MissSt.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Alabama.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-SoCarolina.png

Win

Win

Win

Loss

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/WAC/FB-Wyoming.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Vandy.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

http://gate21.net/wp-content/uploads/Team%20Logos/FB-Kentucky.png

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Win

Season Record

10–2

10–2

10–2

9–3

10–2

10–2

So, there you have it. Hopefully, Will, Jai, and Jon are right, and Tennessee does go undefeated…

2) Gameday routines, we all have them. What are your gameday rituals, especially those that are completely irrational, grounded in baseless superstition, or otherwise defy explanation?

Well, the answers here were as varied as they were interesting.

Will from SouthEastern Sports Blog bemoaned one of my least favorite parts of gamedays at Tennessee — traffic. Despite his angst, however, he waxed sentimental on us all as he talked of anticipating Bobby Denton’s proclamation of “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!!!” before watching pre-game warm-ups. More disturbingly, he mentioned something about having a hog’s head stowed somewhere in his parent’s basement. Yuck!

Doug at the Power T apparently spends his gamedays working as both a chef and a maid — tying every act on a gameday to either cooking or laundry. The All-knowing MoonDog watches objectively, but shows clear signs of inner turmoil in his admission that “after a Vols’ win, I’m less inclined to take a trip to the Memphis Zoo and work over the baby seals.

For Thomas over at YMSWWC, gamedays take on a religious connotation, and his invocation of the football gods includes true ritual:

For home games I get up at 3:30 AM and slash the tires of my neighbors’ car since they are Bama fans. If it’s a road game then I want good karma that day so I only scratch the fender of the car. Then I retire back to bed. Around 7:00 AM I get back up a sacrifice a live cow on the alter of Smokey.

Meanwhile, Joel at RTT, told the tale of “summoning the oracle” known as Jackson the Mule — widely known for his sports prognosticating skill — through the clever use of apples, body paint, and pizza. I thought that sort of thing was illegal in Tennessee?

Cincy Vol and Jai Eugene, however take the gameday display to all new levels by either running around the yard madly waving a Tennessee flag to the point of injury, or yardwork, Tennessee style:

I live deep in the heart of Dixie, where the temps range upwards in 80s during the fall. I typically like to mow my lawn on College Football Saturdays but I do it a bit differently. As I mow, weedeat and edge, I wear a full Tennessee Football Uniform (home or away Jersey depending on the schedule), replete with a helmet (with a ‘T’), shoulder pads,receiver gloves black cleats and a tinted Oakley face shield. … This way I can become one with the current players and the Ghosts of Tennessee past that have had a hand in the rise of the mighty Vols to gridiron glory.

3) Crompton vs. Tebow? Discuss…

Apparently, I just missed the boat on this one. My goal with this question was to compare the two running quarterbacks and get thoughts on how they stack up against one another.

Perhaps I should have used more than four words to pose this question…

Anyway, the answers to this one were … well … interesting.

Joel, in trying to figure out what the question was even about, had this to say:

Perhaps you mean “with sharp implements,” in which case my first inclination is to trust Tebow over Crompton because Crompton, being a more rural-type guy is probably more used to wethering goats than preparing young men for, well, lives as young men. Then again, you could view Crompton as more “thorough” in that regard, so perhaps he’s got the edge. Heh. Edge.

Perhaps you mean “in tights and a headband, shirtless,” in which case I hereby resign from the Roundtable and unsubscribe from your newsletter.

Hmmmm… that last one is an image I could have lived my whole life without.

The rest were pretty much in the same vein — including an impressive answer in song from Loser With Socks — but all seemed to conclude that I was a moron for asking this question before we’ve even really had a chance to see Crompton play.

Mea culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa…

4) Will the Vols manage to make it to the SEC Championship Game again this season – either outright, or through the backdoor? Why or why not?

MoonDog, led the doubters pointing to defensive uncertainty. Doug from the Power T offered this sage insight, which could very well prove to be true:

The real question is: will we be ahead of Florida? Sadly, I think because SO much weight is put on preseason polls, it will be hard to jump ahead of them, even though we have the harder schedule. So, no, I think we will be a few plays short of winning the East, and thusly, a few plays short of winning the SEC. The SEC East winner will undoubtedly win the entire SEC.

Joel, Thomas, and I brought up the rear when it came to naysayers.

Fulmer’s Belly rode the fence saying:

As long as the team gels as a cohesive unit, the SECCG is within reach.
Lose another one however, and fans will grumble like mofos.

On the other hand, SESB asked pointedly, “So really … why not?Cincy Vol agreed, based upon talent and the Vols’ “under the radar” pre-season rankings. Loser With Socks, however, takes the cake in explaining why the Vols will not only make it to the SEC Championship Game, but will win it:

The Vols in the Championship again, It’s because it’s what we love. It is who we were born to be. And here you sit, thinking. Well, Tennessee Football is not for thinkers. We are players and hitters. We are the doers. And that’s what we need to do. We don’t need to think. We need to win. We need speed. We need to go out there, and you need to run like hell. We need to fire it up. We need to grab a hold of that line between speed and chaos, and we need to wrestle it to the ground like a demon cobra! And then, when the fear rises up in our belly, we use it. And you know that fear is powerful, because it has been there for billions of years. And it is good. And we use it. And we ride it; we ride it like a skeleton horse through the gates of hell, and then we win…

I really don’t know what you say in response to that…

5) Of all the coaches in the SEC who do you currently consider to be the best? Why?

Well, I was in the definite minority on this one, picking Sly Croom of Mississippi State. I know that’s a surprise to everyone.

MoonDog took Mark Richt, due to the fact he has really turned the program around at Georgia, and has consistently found his way into BCS Bowls. Joel, despite feeling dirty for having done so, chose The “Ole’ Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier. Thomas the Terrible took Tommy Tubberville (what amazing alliteration)

Both SESB and 3SIB took Urban Meyer with Cincy Vol noting:

I’m the Wes Mantooth to his Ron Burgundy. He just deserves respect, no matter how much I hate him. (And oh do I hate him) He pulled in a national championship and has put the beat on people in the SEC and around the country. The guy is good.

Jai Eugene, along with Jon at Fulmer’s Belly picked the Great Punkin. Jai noted “Fulmer’s masterful play calling, rock hard discipline policy, on the field demeanor, and grasp of the english language during press conferences,” as being the deciding factors in his mind. While Jon as part of his acronym-ical approach to things had this to say:

This isn’t even an question for us. Of course it’s Fulmer.
It doesn’t even compare. Just look at his accolades.
The best winning percentage, the biggest coat size, the most desserts eaten.
Little can take away from our coach’s awesomeness.
Except stupid Urban and Steve of course.

Up Next…

So there you have it folks. We’ve learned that you should never pick against the home team, that demon cobras need wrestling, and that — no matter what — we all feel good about this season.

Oh yeah, we’ve also learned that I will never be given the chance to write the questions again…

Up next is Thomas the Terrible with week 5 of the Roundtable, which will also feature a new member, Patrick from The View From the Hill. Be sure to check it out at the top of the week.

Next time I think I’ll just ask what everyone’s favorite color is …

– Go Figure …Email lawvol


Big Orange Roundtable: Week 4

King for the week!  This week’s Roundtable is hosted here at Gate 21

Oh, to be in Camelot!!!

Having, as Joel put it, taken the the sword from Rocky Top Talk — pointy-end first — and due to a complete lack of standards, this week’s Big Orange Roundtable is being hosted here at Gate 21.

At present the roundtable includes: 3rd Saturday in Blogtober, Fulmer’s Belly, Gate 21, Rocky Top Talk, Loser With Socks, the World According to MoonDog (a/k/a MoonDog Sports), The Power T, Your Mother Slept With Wilt Chamberlain, and the SouthEastern Sports Blog. If you’d like to join, feel free to let us know.

In furtherance of our quest for the answers to life’s burning questions — at least respecting the Tennessee Volunteers, here are this week’s questions — courtesy of your truly — along with my particularly meaningless answers.

Week 4

(Questions in Sort-o-Teal-like color)

1) Thus far we’ve made a number of predictions for the 2008 Vols.  Now, let’s take the next step: What are your pre-season predictions for each of Tennessee’s regular season games this year (along with any explanations you feel are needed)?

Date

Opponent

(Home Games in Bold)

Win or Loss

Prediction

1 Sept

UCLA

Win

Tennessee leads for majority of game.  Wins easily after Eric Berry shreds UCLA offensive threats.

Final Score:  28 – 7

13 Sept

UAB

Win

UAB stays close until mid-way through 2nd Quarter.  Vols stretch their legs in 2nd half.

Final Score:  41 – 14

20 Sept

Florida

Loss

Florida scores early in the 1st and quiets the crowd.  Vols close the gap, but turnovers kill them in the 2nd half in a close game.

Final Score:  28 – 24

27 Sept

Auburn

Loss

Teams stay close throughout first 3 quarters.  Auburn makes key stops in fourth and capitalizes to win in defensive struggle.

Final Score:  13 – 9

4 Oct

Northern Illinois

Win

After 2 tough losses, Vols enjoy beating up on a less talented team.

Final Score:  38 – 3

11 Oct

Georgia

Win

Despite pre-season talk of national championship.  Vols “upset” Georgia.  It will not be the Dawg’s only loss.

Final Score:  21 -14

18 Oct

Mississippi State

Win

Scrappy Miss. State team fights to the wire.  Vols come away with a victory — barely — thanks to Daniel Lincoln‘s foot.

Final Score:  20 – 17

25 Oct

Alabama

Win

Tide comes out raring to go, but so does Tennessee’s defense.  It is close at halftime, but not at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Final Score:  28 – 10

1 Nov

South Carolina

Win

Vols use South Carolina’s lack of discipline on offense to kill the Gamecocks.  Spurrier wears a pink tu-tu in the 2nd half as a motivational tool — it fails.

Final Score:  35 – 17

8 Nov

Wyoming

Win

Vols give Wyoming’s unconventional offense a lesson on why it’s called “unconventional” — because it only works on rare occasions.

Final Score:  31 – 7

22 Nov

Vanderbilt

Win

At halftime, Tennessee leads by 3 points.  When Vols score in the 3rd period, both of Vandy’s fans leave.  From there the Vols widen the gap.

Final Score:  21 – 10

29 Nov

Kentucky

Win

It’s cold and nasty as Kentucky takes one in the chops.  Unfortunately, their fans realize the whole “wait till basketball season” thing simply doesn’t work anymore.

Final Score:  28 – 7

Those are my pre-season thoughts, and like all pre-season predictions, they are utterly meaningless…

2) Gameday routines, we all have them.  What are your gameday rituals, especially those that are completely irrational, grounded in baseless superstition, or otherwise defy explanation?

Well, as I recounted in Week 2, my gameday ritual is one which includes a lot of driving, and little time for tailgating.  Thus, I suppose my gamedays are a little less “ritualistic” than some.  Still, I have my tried and tested routines which I tend to stick to closely.

Since Sam & Andy’s closed, I generally eat my pre-game meal at Smokey’s in the University Center — It’s not grand faire, but at least the lines aren’t that long.  As a general rule, I don’t eat much before a game — especially big games — due to the fact that I’d just as soon not end up spending my time in the Neyland Stadium bathrooms, remodeled or not.

As a general rule, I rarely drink any alcohol on gamedays — not because I’m a teetotaler, but because I find it is generally ill-advised to show up to the stadium “overcome by a multitude of circumstances.“  I have never favored drinking before a game — mainly because I want to be able to remember the game.  There have, however, been a few games which have made me wish I had gotten knee-crawlin’ drunk before kickoff, if only to dull the pain, and to encourage explosive projectile vomiting on opposing fans.

My biggest tradition is that I smoke a big nasty cigar before each game, and — if we win — one afterwards.  This is really the only time I smoke at all.  I do realize that they take years off your life, but they are the ones at the end, and they aren’t any good anyway.  Besides, people tend to get out of your way and run for cover when you have a flaming stick protruding from your mouth which smells like smoldering death.  I guess I blame Doctor Julian, and his constant cigar smoking for that one.

Oh!  What’s that Hell you’re playing?

Dr. W.J. Julian, Director of Bands Emeritus

After I have incinerated my taste buds, I usually wait for the Pride of the Southland to do their “Salute to the Hill” and enter the stadium.  I waited for the Vol Walk once — in 2002 — but after seeing Casey Clausen come pimp-strutting by wearing a suit the color of something that came out of a baby’s diaper, immediately before getting annihilated by Florida, I’ve skipped it.

Once inside the stadium, I loudly heckle Bobby Denton as he announces the line-ups.  It is interesting how skillfully he can butcher some of the names — despite the fact there are printed pronunciations in the media guide.

Then I settle back and enjoy watching inattentive fans take footballs in the head as the kicking team warms up, before settling in for a 4-hour battle — my lucky towel always tucked in my belt.

Since they added them to the concessions at the game, I usually eat a Petro at some point in the game, mainly because I love those things…

Hmmm, now that I think about it, I’m pretty white-bread…

3) Crompton vs. Tebow?   Discuss…

This is naturally one of the hot topics this year as the “Straight Outta Crompton” era begins.  The similarities between these two quarterbacks are striking — both have the ability to throw on you, and both have the willingness and the skills to run straight at opposing defenses.  Obviously, Tim Tebow has experience on his side, and a trophy which — according to some — has elevated him to the status of deity.  By the same token, Jonathan Crompton has a fearlessness which Tebow has never really seemed to demonstrate.

Tebow managed 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in 2007, and broke pretty much every record for running quarterbacks.  I question, however, whether that was as much a function of his innate abilities as it was Florida’s willingness to sellout on a new offensive scheme which, at the time, was somewhat unconventional.  As their final 9-4 record for 2007 shows, the Florida Gators were very beatable (apparently just not by Tennessee).  The biggest weakness for the Florida offense last year was the running backs — they really didn’t have one.  Tebow, who runs like a fullback, is at his best running when in close quarters, either up the middle, or on sweeps and draws.  As we all know he has exhibited great speed and elusive moves, and is a serious threat on any play.  Still, at times his decision making has essentially rendered Florida’s offense one-dimensional.  Saint Tebow versus the world.  Furthermore, while Tebow ran like a madman throughout the season, he did so at a price — suffering several injuries which hampered his production.

Crompton, on the other hand, is still somewhat of an unknown.  As he made clear while filling in for Erik Ainge in 2006, he has a cannon of an arm.  Like a cannon, however, sometimes his aim is … well … not what it could be.  That said, with an extra year of experience under his belt, it would seem likely that his throwing abilities could have only improved.  As I said previously, I have some concerns about his mental game — whether he has the discipline to make smart decisions in choosing his receivers and his routes.  By the same token, Crompton has a running style which really defies explanation when it comes to running quarterback.  at 6’4″, 220″, he has the size of Fullback, but runs more like a traditional running back.  His absolute lack of fear while running — including his complete willingness to drop his head and plant a helmet in the chest of tacklers, makes him seem more threatening in the open field than Tebow.  The speed and agility he has shown in the past makes him a serious threat in the open field, albeit less so between the tackles.  If, Crompton has stepped up to the next level and is mentally prepared, he could be an absolute terror this season — especially under the tuteledge of new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.  Furthermore, thus far it has seemed that Crompton has a greater potential to burn defenses with the long ball while passing than Tebow, but — again — his track record is limited and it is hard to say for certain.

In the end, we probably don’t have enough information to make a fair comparison between the two … yet.  Hopefully, Crompton will come out full force from the start.  That said with both a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator, it is likely that there will be some miscues in the early games.  By the midpoint of the season, however, I strongly believe that Crompton has the potential to be every bit as good as Tebow.

Needless to say, I am seriously looking forward to seeing them go head-to-head when they meet on 20 September.

4) Will the Vols manage to make it to the SEC Championship Game again this season — either outright, or through the backdoor?  Why or why not?

Well, in all honesty, the Vols probably never should have been anywhere near Atlanta for the SEC Championship game last year.  Still, when it came down to it, they earned the trip and were one boneheaded pass away from potentially beating the LSU Tigers.  Thus, I guess they were better than most gave them credit for.

Be that as it may, I think it is highly unlikely that the Vols make the return trip this year.  Though it pains me to say it, I have Florida picked to go to the Championship from the SEC East to play either LSU or Auburn.  I believe that Tennessee — being the perpetual bridesmaid — will finish second, just ahead of a 2-conference loss Georgia (with the tie going to Tennessee due to a head-to-head win).  If the Vols manage to somehow beat Florida or Auburn — or miraculously both of them — then that would change things dramatically (as if that were not self-evident).

In the end, I simply think that the offense will be too new this year, and thus will have a difficult time during September.  With new starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton, and a new offensive scheme under Dave Clawson, I simply think it will take the Vols at least half the season to find offensive consistency.  Unfortunately, the Vols schedule (as always) is heavily weighted to the front end.  That means the chance of two early-season conference losses which will effectively knock them out of contention for the SEC East.

That said, they could be hell-on-wheels by 2009…

5) Of all the coaches in the SEC who do you currently consider to be the best?  Why?

I know a lot of folks will say Les Miles, Tommy Tubberville, or maybe even Urban Meyer.  For me, however, I have got to go with Sylvester Croom who has coached the Mississippi State Bulldogs for the last 5 years.  When Croom took over, the Bulldogs were awful — they just plain sucked.  After 3 years of winning only 3 games, however, Croom finally seemed to turn the corner in Starkville in 2007 finishing 8-5 (4-4 SEC) for the season — the first winning season for Miss. State since 2000.

While I realize his win / loss record is not what it could be (17-30 overall) managing to bring the Bulldogs back to respectability is, in my book, a major accomplishment.  Let’s be frank here, it’s called “Stark“ville for a reason.  Recruiting for the Bulldogs is probably as challenging as any other school in the SEC, perhaps with the exception of Vanderbilt.  Yet, somehow, Croom has managed to right the ship and bring the program back from the bowels of football hell.

What’s more, this year’s team returns 14 starters — all of whom were recruited by Croom — and looks to be set to make another strong showing this year.  They should be even better than they were in 2007, and I’d be highly surprised if the Bulldogs don’t end up in a bowl this year.  I have real fear when it comes to the Vols game against the Bulldogs this year.  My only hope is that the boys in orange don’t “overlook” the cowbell clan — if they do, they will lose.

I sincerely hope that Croom keeps building on his successes from 2007 and continues to bring Miss. State back to the forefront of the SEC West.  It’s one thing to win at LSU, Florida, or Auburn — if you can win at Mississippi State, you can win anywhere.

The Rest of the Roundtable:

Having wasted your time on my largely meaningless and insignificant thoughts for this week, go check out what the other roundtablers (who actually know what they are talking about) have to say.  I’ll be updating the links as each new post comes up — that is, unless they all refuse to answer my asinine questions.  Assuming that they do answer the questions and that you do not value the lining of your stomach, feel free to come back on Friday to see the round-up of what everyone had say (In no particular order):

It’s nice to be king, well, at least until they behead you…

– Go Figure …Email lawvol


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