App State vs. Tennessee Preview: Gotta Start Somewhere
College football—like real, meaningful college football—is back tonight. For that reason (and that reason only), you should tune in for Tennessee’s season-opener against Appalachian State.
The over-riding narrative (Tennessee stands with little to gain and everything to lose) is not a false one in this instance, but I think this could actually be a statement game for the Vols on a relative basis.
On the downside, I don’t think a loss is remotely viable for Tennessee (though references to the Mountaineers’ defeat of Michigan a decade or so ago will abound). Similarly, a close matchup really doesn’t mean a whole lot either. Just because there’s not a lot to “gain” by winning, doesn’t mean a narrow victory is synonymous with disappointment. And this game really won’t be close. “Close” would be more a reflection of time than final score. A close game at half-time would be “close” even if the Vols win by 21.
But on the upside, there could be something to be gained if Tennessee
- Shows up ready to play.
- Dominates both lines of scrimmage throughout.
- Plays mistake-free football.
- Doesn’t let off the gas.
Tennessee (somehow a Top 10 team) should be capable of that. And for the doubters out there (myself included), something like a 42-7 win would actually squash some preseason negativity (even against App State). After all, my big beef with the Vols and Butch Jones has been their inability to put together complete games on a consistent basis. Just think about last year’s regular season games against FBS competition:
- Gave up 30 points to Bowling Green
- Blew a 17-point lead to Oklahoma.
- Blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead vs. Florida.
- Blew a 14-point lead to Arkansas.
- Defeated Georgia at home.
- Didn’t score for a 42-minute stretch against Alabama.
- Trailed Kentucky for most of the first half.
- Blew 17-point lead to South Carolina, needed fourth quarter FG to win game.
- Defeated North Texas but scored only 24 points.
- Scored only 19 points vs. Missouri.
- Allowed 28 points to Vandy (a team that averaged 13.2 points against other FBS foes).
The Georgia game was probably Tennessee’s best effort in terms of controlling the game relative to expectations and not stepping on its own toes. Alabama was also a valiant effort (but still a loss). But outside of those two contests there was no “great” game (regardless of competition).
The 45-6 win over Northwestern in the bowl game was a blood bath from start to finish. Preseason hype says that’s who the Vols are. I still think they’re too inconsistent. But dominating App State from start-to-finish would actually read through as a real positive to me.
I still don’t think Tennessee is that dominate-start-to-finish-week-in-and-week-out team. So I think they’ll cover the 20.5 point spread primarily with second half efforts. We’re looking at a 45-21 ball game.
That’s all I got/