If you’re like me, you’ve probably sleep-walked through this week in a daze. It hasn’t been that long ago that our team was 5-0 to start the 2016 season heading into a pivotal road game against fellow unbeaten Texas A&M nearly midway through last year.
Now, Butch Jones and Kevin Sumlin share the hottest seats in the SEC, perhaps along with Missouri second-year coach Barry Odom. It’s crazy, but the Vols have absolutely lost everything all at once.
Now, you just wonder how long it’s going to take for it to end.
But before all that happens, there’s some football still to be played, beginning with next weekend’s home game against South Carolina. Everybody is going to be curious to see what the Neyland Stadium crowd is like, how receptive they are to Jones and the team and just how the Vols respond to all this adversity, especially against a coach in Will Muschamp who has UT’s number.
Perhaps the biggest question of them all though is who’s going to start at quarterback? If you’re a true UT fan, you still want the Vols to win. And so you want to see what this offense is going to look like with Jarrett Guarantano under center. In the flashes we’ve seen him this year, he hasn’t been good. But you wonder if he prepares differently and how the team responds to him once he has two weeks of work.
Following Quinten Dormady’s early-season struggles, you have to figure the Vols are going to go with Guarantano. After all, he may not be “better” right now, but he’s “different.” And different is what UT needs right now. The Vols have to try something — anything — else to try to find answers.
But I’m cautioning you all: Guarantano isn’t Joshua Dobbs.
Repeat that again with me: Jarrett. Guarantano. Is. Not. Joshua. Dobbs.
I said it all through last season and all through the offseason: All of those UT fans who weren’t sold on Dobbs would realize just how good of a player he was once he’s gone. He wasn’t always the most accurate passer, but he sometimes willed the Vols to wins and kept them in games. This year, quarterback play has been a liability. Do you not think Jones and Co. already would have started Guarantano if he was like Dobbs?
The bottom line is the redshirt freshman is strong-armed, quick-footed and talented. But he is too panicky in the pocket, looks to run too quickly and can’t freelance in the open field the way Dobbs could. He struggles with touch on his passes, and he hasn’t gotten the offense in any sort of rhythm when he’s been on the field.
Will that be any different with him if he starts and if he’s prepared to be a starter? I don’t know, but don’t believe he’s going to come in here and automatically be the savior. There are more things wrong than just the quarterback position. So, it’s hard believing a kid with no experience is going to do away with the doldrums.
Well, let’s move on to the gory details.
Last week was the worst Locks & Keys week of my life. I went 1-7. If you actually bet, I wouldn’t listen to me at all. But after two frustrating weeks (after a hot start) dropped me to 15-18-1, there’s only one thing to do, and that’s pick some winners. Right now, I’m the prognosticating equivalent of the Vols.
I’m awful. Seriously, there’s no excuse for 1-7. You have to try hard to suck that bad. I’m a failure.
Speaking of our team, they’re pretty pitiful. Needless to say, they did nothing last week that we hoped. That’s why they lost 41-0. So, let’s take a look at last week’s keys. They were all failures.
- Make Fromm look like a freshman: There were times throughout much of the first quarter and a half where he absolutely did look like a first-year starter. Then, Fromm settled down, made some throws and show the poise he’s been known for. He was only 7-of-15 for 84 yards, but he didn’t have to do much. He had two rushing scores.
- Slow the big three: Nick Chubb had 109 rushing yards, and the Dawgs controlled the game on the ground. But the numbers weren’t really all that big. They didn’t have to be.
- Remember the rhythm: This was another play-calling failure for new offensive coordinator Larry Scott. It was pathetic.
- Turn ’em over: When UGA turned the ball over, the Vols promptly butt-fumbled it right back to them.
- Band together and coach this team: If anything, it looked like UT quit and it also looks like the Vols have quit playing for Butch. I hope I’m wrong. It doesn’t feel that way right now.
You really can’t have any keys in a bye week, but after all the rumors, the embarrassing Touchdown Club trip to Memphis, the recruiting defections, etc., I know a lot of people believe the only key right now is to move in a different direction.
I’ll only say once that I agree; Butch Jones has done the exact opposite of galvanizing the fan base, and though he’s done a lot for this program [whether you feel like giving him credit or not] maybe the next guy needs to do the heavy lifting.
I’m wrestling with those emotions right now, because he’s coming off back-to-back 9-4 seasons. But this thing is so completely broken right now. There is a chance the Vols can get it going back in the right direction, but they’ve shown no signs of it yet.
It kind of makes you wonder if they will.
We’ve read so many times this week that it’s now not a matter of “if” but “when.” The Vols need to take care of business, starting with South Carolina next week, or we’re about to start over. Yet again.
In case you didn’t pay attention, I suck. I’ve got to turn it around, and I will. This week, it’s at least back to .500, and we’re going to try to go over it. Let’s do this.
- Memphis (-13.5) over UConn: Last week, the fighting Scott Frosts brought Memphis back down to earth. But the Tigers are still very good and can still score a ton of points. The Huskies can’t. This one seems too easy, and it’s gonna be a good start to the weekend with a Friday night win.
- Maryland (+31) over Ohio State: I don’t care if the Terrapins’ eighth-string quarterback plays, DJ Durkin is finding a way to dial up some points. This Maryland team isn’t bad, and even though they won’t beat the Buckeyes, they’ll keep it within 31. Easily.
- Washington State (-2.5) over Oregon: I don’t understand this at all. I know it’s at Eugene, but this Ducks team is two weeks removed from losing to Arizona State and just lost starting quarterback Justin Herbert. Mike Leach still getting no love.
- Georgia (-17) over Vanderbilt: The Commdores are a solid team that will go bowling, but they can’t score against this Bulldogs defense. UGA will be coming off a commitment from 5-star quarterback Justin Fields, and they are undefeated and smelling big things. This won’t be a letdown game.
- West Virginia (+13.5) over TCU: It’s asking too much for Dana Holgorsen’s team to go to Fort Worth and pull off the upset of a good Horned Frogs team that is hot right now. But Will Grier and Co. will keep it under two touchdowns.
- Miami (-3.5) over Florida State: The Seminoles are not very good. Miami is, and Mark Richt’s team is going to come out hyped and pour it on FSU. It’ll be thorough.
- Kentucky (-10.5) over Mizzou: The Wildcats have a tendency to play up or down to their competition, so that makes this a dangerous game, but Barry Odom isn’t going to last long in Columbia, and this UK team is going to score at will on the Tigers.
- SMU (+6.5) over Houston: Ed Oliver may or may not play, but it won’t matter. Not only will the Mustangs cover, Chad Morris’ 4-1 team will win outright. They are not a bad team, and it won’t be long before Morris is a hot commodity for another program.