We did this last year, and I don’t know if anyone else liked it, but Mike and I did, so we’re bringing it back! We’ll go through each game of the season and make our predictions for how the year will play out for both Alabama and Tennessee. Then each week, we’ll review our predictions for that week and figure out if we were wrong or just horribly, unforgivably wrong.
We’ve gone through Alabama’s season. It’s Tennessee’s turn to go under our dull, rusty knife.
August 31, North Carolina St in Atlanta
The season kicks off, where so many Tennessee seasons have died: The Georgia Dome. Two offenses come out firing, and two defenses really don’t know what they’re doing. UT’s new 3-4 takes an entire half to look a little bit normal. The halftime score is 24-20 UT. The defense comes around a little in the second half, and the offense keeps rolling. Tyler Bray has a HUGE game.
Tennessee 45- NC State 34
What do you get when you combine a defense that’s still trying to get comfortable in their new roles with an offense returning a good quarterback behind a veteran offensive line? If you’re the Wolfpack, the answer is “not enough.” David Amerson can cover most receivers in the country, but the Vols have two receivers who are tall enough that Tyler Bray will just have to throw the ball up toward the one he isn’t covering. Mix in Mychal Rivera and the passing game will be fine. Neither team impresses on the ground, but it won’t matter for Coach Derek Dooley, who will find that the “we’ve got things to work on” speech is a lot easier to give coming off a win.
Tennessee 30 – NC State – 27
September 8, Georgia State in Knoxville
Not much to see here. This game is over almost before it begins. The defense looks better, but it should. It’s Georgia State.
Tennessee 56 – Georgia State 13
The only criticism of the Vols in this game will be asking why they left Bray in so long. Vols barely break a sweat.
Tennessee 63 – Georgia State 17
September 15, Florida in Knoxville
The SEC opener for both teams in recent years, is now just the SEC opener for the Vols. Florida comes in after having defeated a game Texas A&M squad. UT is coming in over a thrashing of Georgia St. The Florida defense keeps the Vols under forty for the first time this season, but Sal Sunseri’s crew is starting to get the hang of this 3-4 thing. Florida scores a late touchdown to make the final score close than the actual game.
Tennessee 31 – Florida 23
It’s Florida, and nothing good ever happens against Florida. Today is no different. The Vols fans learn the hard way that having a good passing game isn’t quite enough. Brent Pease has a good, conservative game plan that allows the Gator defense to stay fresh and minimize the damage the Vols offense can do. The game remains tight but Florida has the edge at the end.
Tennessee 20 – Florida 23
September 22, Akron in Knoxville
Bowden ball returns to Neyland Stadium! Get your dadgum tickets! Well if you are a Volunteer fan it’ll be worth seeing. The author’s hometown makes its second trip to Neyland, and it’s about as ugly as the first
Tennessee 45 – Akron 10
Tennessee gets a little confidence boost for their defense when the aptly named Zips are shut out (Bit of trivia: the Zips scored a FG or less four different times last season on the way to a 1-11 season). Bray has a big game and the running backs carry the second half.
Tennessee 55 – Akron 0
September 29, Georgia in Athens
The Volunteers ended August with a trip to the Peach State, and they’ll end September there as well. Georgia leads most of the game with Aaron Murray getting three first half touchdowns. Tennessee is down 21-7 at the half, and much of Volunteer nation is getting supremely worried. Tennessee takes the ball at the start of the second half at their own 20. Tyler Bray opens the second half with 4 consecutive completions. Zach Rogers for a gain of 8, 2nd and two play fake, Justin Hunter streaking up the sideline gets knocked out of bounds at the Georgia 44. First and 10 Bray hits Cordarrelle Patterson for a gain of 12. First and 10 at the Georgia 32 Bray drops back and hits young Drae Bowles in the endzone as the the Dawg defense forgot about him trying to cover Patterson and Hunter. A furious comeback ensues.
Tennessee 35 – Georgia 31
In week five, the Bulldogs will finally have their full roster off suspension. This does not bode well for the Vols. Bacarri Rambo successfully baits Tyler Bray into an interception early and Aaron Murray is able to complete the long handoff to freshman Ken Malcome for the first score. The Vols are forced to punt on their next possession and Branden Smith returns it for six. Murray is able to take the quick two score lead and sit on it, doing nothing spectacular, but enough to win the game. The Vols now have a two game deficit in the East and the calls for Dooley’s head are predictable.
Tennessee 23 – Georgia 27
October 13, Mississippi State in Starkville
The Vols make their first trip to Starkville since 2007. In an ugly game marred by turnovers on both sides, neither team gets much traction. The Volunteers eke out of Mississippi with an ugly W. But hey, it’s a W.
Tennessee 21 – Miss State 20
I’m not buying Miss State this year. In three seasons, it doesn’t appear that Dan Mullen has been able to identify what exactly it is he wants to do on offense. One would assume he wants to score, but there’s no evidence that’s actually a priority. The Bulldog defense is stout and Jonathan Banks is able to pick off Bray and return it for a TD, but that’s the only time the Bulldogs reach the end zone.
Tennessee 30 – Miss State 16
October 20, Alabama in Knoxville
Neyland Stadium is rocking, and undefeated Tide, and undefeated Volunteer squad, it’s actually the Third Saturday in October! For three quarters these teams punch and counter punch. UT takes the field after a touchback and goes 80 yards culminating in a Tyler Bray to Cordarrelle Patterson touchdown, and Rocky Top is heard across the nation. Alabama punts! Tyler Bray is intercepted by Lester, and Lester takes it down to the UT 4 yard line. Two plays later, TJ Yeldon scampers into the end-zone. A Tennessee punt ensues. End of the 1st quarter 7-7. Alabama gets an early 2nd quarter field goal to go up 10-7. Tennessee gets a huge kick return from Devrin Young all the way down to the Alabama 32. First play from scrimmage is a draw and Rajion Neal flies into the checkerboards virtually untouched. 14-10 Tennessee. The Ghost of Neyland nearly has a heart attack! Alabama drives the length of the field and AJ McCarron rolls out finds Eddie Lacy alone and Lacy catches a pass to go into the end-zone 17-14 Alabama. ANOTHER HUGE KICK RETURN BY YOUNG! People in Nome, can see the steam coming off of Nick Saban’s face as he excoriates his special teamers. The Tide defense stiffens and the Vols settle for a tying field goal. Halftime: 17-17. Alabama smartly marches down the field and scores on a McCarron to Kenny Bell to go up 24-17. Tennessee goes three and out, and Verne and Gary virtually write the fat lady’s song for her. BUT WAIT! After a TJ Yeldon run on first down, McCarron play fakes on 2nd and 3. Prentiss Waggner doesn’t bite, and picks off McCarron and returns it to the 50. 1st and 2nd down runs produce nothing, Bray drops back and heaves a jump ball down to Justin Hunter who catches it going out of bounds on the Alabama 5. All of Rocky Top has their hearts in their throats as the officials determine Hunter got a foot down. On 4th and goal from the 9 (Yes, UT lost 4 yards on the first 3 downs) Dooley says screw it. Bray finds a wide open Mychal Rivera in the end zone. ROCKY TOP YOU’LL ALWAYS BE, HOME SWEET HOME TO MEEEEEEEE!!! Gary Danielson is still convinced that Justin Hunter was out of bounds. The third period ends with Alabama at midfield and the score 24-24. In the fourth ‘Bama manages 2 field goals, and UT can’t get an offensive series going.
Tennesse 24 – Alabama 30
Last season, the Tide sleepwalked through the first half, leading to a six-point draw at the interim. Someone lit a fire under them in the locker room and they came out and took care of business, scoring 31 unanswered points. After that game the team admitted that they had expected a beat up Vols team to just lay down for them like they had the year before. That won’t be the case this season. Alabama comes in looking for a fight from the Vols and the Vols intend to give it to them. The Vols fight valiantly for three quarters, managing to stay within two scores, but there’s just not enough depth available to stop Bama from dominating the fourth quarter. The Vols only touch the ball twice in the last frame, managing a couple first downs but never threatening a score. The moral victory comes from the Vols scoring more than ten points against Bama for the first time in five years.
Alabama 31 – Tennessee 13
October 27, South Carolina in Columbia
The author’s cousin makes his yearly call, and tells him why the Gamecocks are going to thrash the Vols. Thrashing is not the correct word by any means, but Tennessee cannot handle Jadeveon Clowney and the Carolina pass rush. Tyler Bray never really gets comfortable, and Marcus Lattimore looks like a Heisman winner.
Tennessee 14 – South Carolina 27
This is just ugly football. Neither team can get out of it’s own way, and Marcus Lattimore has the kind of game that’s more typical for him than South Carolina fans like to admit. He’s consistent but not devastating. Jadaveon Clowney is disruptive, but doesn’t get Bray on the ground very often, resulting in incompletions rather than sacks. The Gamecocks eke out a win in a game that both teams are just glad to be over by the end.
Tennessee 13 – South Carolina 14
November 3, Troy in Knoxville
Just what the Doctor ordered! Troy isn’t Georgia State or Akron, but neither are they Alabama or South Carolina. Bray gets his confidence back. Rajion Neal runs for nearly 200 yards, and the game is over literally in a hurry, as the UT offense grinds clock like sausage.
Tennessee 28- Troy 13
Bray gets his confidence back in a big way. This is not the Troy of a few years ago.
Tennessee 52 – Troy 17
November 10, Missouri in Knoxville
The Tigers get their first official SEC visit to Neyland stadium, and boy can these Tigers score. Unfortunately for Mizzou, Tennessee can score at a faster clip. An old fashion shoot-out occurs. The half time score is 28-28. A James Franklin fumble late in the third floor finally gives the UT defense a rest.
Tennessee 49 – Mizzou 42
Before the season, this will be seen as an offensive shootout, but the wear of the season will take some of the sting out of both of these offenses. It’s not a defensive struggle by any stretch, but getting that last twenty yards will confound both teams. The Vols benefit from more experience dealing with the wear of an SEC season.
Tennessee 26 – Missouri 20
November 17, Vanderbilt in Nashville
The Commodores come out fired up, and hit Tennessee with two early. Herman Lathers and company don’t allow Vandy another touchdown. Tyler Bray wakes up, hitting Justin Hunter twice in the second quarter to take a 14-13 lead into the half. Two more second half touchdowns ensue.
Tennessee 28 – Vandy 16
Vanderbilt remembers how close they got to winning this game in Knoxville last year. So does Tennessee. To borrow from my own team’s history, Ole Miss played Alabama really close in the Ed Orgeron years, too, but it never amounted to a win. Vandy plays the Vols close and at times threatens to take the lead, but it never materializes.
Tennessee 20 – Vanderbilt 16
November 24, Kentucky in Knoxville
All the misery and pain from 2011 gets officially wiped clean in Neyland Stadium. Tennessee pours it on early and often. The Wildcats barely get off the carpet.
Tennessee 35 – Kentucky 3
Tennessee wants to remind Kentucky that last year was an aberration, but it doesn’t mean as much when the Wildcats are without a head coach, having already fired Joker Phillips. Tennessee struggles early under the weight of it’s own expectations, but the game is never really at risk.
Tennessee 33 – Kentucky 16