Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One More Loss and Phil Fulmer Is Finished

There is a strong consensus that University of Tennessee's head football coach Phil Fulmer will be finished after his next loss.

It was rumored that Fulmer would be out after the Alabama game. That rumor grew legs before the Mississippi State game, however the Vols ultimately crushed the Bulldogs after a second half surge sparked by two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

The remaining Tennessee schedule includes South Carolina on Nov. 1, followed by Wyoming, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. It is unlikely the Vols will escape unscathed, therefore, it is likely Fulmer will be finished in the coming weeks. This weekend alone poses a threat against Steve Spurrier.

At first blush one can see that Fulmer has a national title. In recruiting, the Vols have been fairly successful with three top five classes since 2002 and five top 20 classes during the same period. Now the Vols are on track to have another top 10 class this year.

Fulmer is also renowned for having greats such as Peyton Manning, Jamal Lewis, and Cedric Wilson.

On the field Fulmer's teams regularly have nine and 10 wins including bowl games, which seems exceptional, though a look at Vol losses reveals much more. Since 2002, the Vols have had three or more losses each season. Three losses will certainly exclude any team from the National Title, if not a BCS Berth in any BCS bowl.

The Vols are regular runner-up contenders or worse in the SEC under Fulmer. Fulmer had many great players with whom he couldn't attain that elusive undefeated season or national championship.

Will Tennessee fans settle for mediocrity? Those who hate Tennessee or play against them hope their fans will resign themselves to the obligatory three losses per year, but in the midst of a 3-5 record, it appears Vols fans have had enough and the stands are empty.

With one more loss, Vols' fans will get their wish, but who will lead the Vols' in the future? Will it be Cutcliffe, who was arguably the mastermind behind any Fulmer success? Will it be Gruden, who will doubtfully leave his spot at Tampa Bay and who grew up in the shadow of the Golden Dome at Notre Dame? Will it be another lesser known name, or will the Vols make a controversial move for Steve Spurrier?

Many questions surround the future of Tennessee, but one thing is certain: Phil Fulmer won't be coaching next year unless he wins every game left on the schedule.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tennessee-MSU Report Card

Tennessee was able to dominate the Mississippi State Bulldogs and get their first SEC win 34-3. So let's take a look at the report card and see how well the Vols improved:



Quarterback

Nick Stephens - 10-of-20 passing, 136 yards - continues to manage the offensive effectively, though not yet spectacularly. However, at this point I will take it.

Stephens also showed a good pocket presence and scrambling ability, breaking an 18-yard run to get the Vols in field-goal position. Stephens is showing great heart out on the field and the offense is starting to respond.

GRADE: B


Tennessee is still no where near expectations in the running game and Arian Foster has not been sharp at all, but he did have the longest run of the night for 19 yards.

Lennon Creer showed good vision and made nice cuts in leading Vols with 68 yards rushing on 17 carries. Creer also had good second effort on his 1-yard TD run. Fulmer should give the ball to Creer more often, as he seems to be the back who could give Tennessee the big play.

GRADE: C



Wide Receivers

Lucas Taylor made a clutch fourth-down grab while Denarius Moore reeled in a 45-yard strike from Stephens to stretch the defense. Moore has become Stephens' favorite target.

Gerald Jones didn't make a catch before his ankle sprain and had a pass go through his arms. Luke Stocker also had a drop. Clawson and Fulmer meed to get Brandon Warren more involved.

GRADE: C



Offensive Line

No penalties and adequate pass protection in only allowing Mississippi State one sack. The run blocking picked up in the second half but is still lacking and not getting the physical push typical of Tennessee lines of the past. Fulmer being a former lineman himself cannot be happy with their effort this season.

GRADE: C-


Defensive Line

Wes Brown, Chris Walker and Robert Ayers all recorded sacks, and the defensive tackles did an outstanding job clogging the interior running lanes, holding the Bulldogs to only 2.3 yards per carry.

A few missed tackles on sack opportunities, or it would have been an even better night. The line should still be recording more sacks to keep some of the pressure off the linebackers.

GRADE: B



Linebackers

Speaking of the linebackers, Nevin McKenzie recorded two sacks and Ellix Wilson tipped two passes that resulted in interceptions. Rico McCoy only had two tackles.

McKenzie, however, was faked out of his jock strap by the QB in the open field, leading to a first down. Missed tackles like that have cost Tennessee in games this season, and will not help when playing Alabama next week.

GRADE: B+



Secondary

Have I mentioned before that Eric Berry is awesome? Well he is!

Berry and Demetrice Morley each returned interceptions for touchdowns, and Berry had a QB sack and led the team with 10 tackles. DeAngelo Willingham atoned for a pass interference penalty with an interception. Strong coverage.

You cannot ask for a better game than that from the secondary.

GRADE: A



Special Teams

Not the best punting effort from Britton Colquitt. He shanked a punt for 26 yards and only averaged 44 yards a punt which is not good for him.

Daniel Lincoln made field goals from 28 and 36 yards, he missed a 34-yarder. Other than Dennis Rogan's 40-yarder, the return game was pedestrian. Good coverage on punts and kicks, and Ja'Kouri Williams forced a fumble.

GRADE: C



Coaching

Game balls definitely go to John Chavis and his defense. Sound game plan and preparation. Two interceptions were direct result of scheme.

UT's offense was 7 of 15 on third-down conversions and yardage was balanced. Offensive scores came on four drives of 10 plays or more. Coach Phillip Fulmer's fourth-down gamble in third quarter led to TD.

GRADE: A-



FINAL GPA: 2.77



While the first half was very pedestrian, the third quarter touchdown drive got the team and the crowd going and Tennessee was able to roll from there. Fulmer's fourth down gamble could be a turning point in the season if the wins keep coming.

Still lots of room for improvement but Tennessee was able to play well against a physical opponent. However, the Crimson Tide are next. I am anxious to see what the Vols can do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Georgia-Tennessee: Who Wins?

Two weeks after the debacle against Alabama, the Dawgs are apparently playing the Tennessee Vols this week. I say that because the buildup to this week's game is, for a better word, lacking.

Now the Vols have a tough, top 15 run defense, highlighted by Ellix Wilson and Rico McCoy, in what seems to be his 13th year at Tennessee.

The Dawgs have a deceptive rush offense ranking, only making the top 50. However, no one will deny the power and influence starting RB Knowshon Moreno has over the entire offense.

I was looking at how Knowshon could come back after getting hurt during said 'Bama game and seeing how effective he might be against the Volunteers defense.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Knowshon said he will “...be there [against Tennessee]. I’ll be ready to go.”

He "knows" it'll be a big game, so hopefully he won't lay an egg like he did two weeks ago. However, if he can't bring it all, backups Caleb King and Richard Samuel, who has been complaining for more touches in games, will step up.

This Dawgs offense is more than just run, as SEC total yards leader QB Matthew Stafford can attest to. The Dawgs' passing game is first in the SEC, and UT's top 15 pass defense, led by All-SEC safety Eric Berry, will be on high alert.

However, we have yet to touch on Tennessee's stagnant offense. Led by Dave Clawson, the Vols offense ranks 97th in the nation in total offense. Led by Jonathan Crompton and their 98th-ranked passing offense and Arian Foster and their 61st-ranked rushing offense, the Vols got a lot of explaining to do about their anemic ways.

I guess no matter how you spell it, the sound CLAW-SON just brings the Tennessee offense to a standstill—but this time it's the offensive coordinator and not two loudmouth quarterbacks.

This will be a huge game for head coach Phillip Fulmer, because a debilitating loss to Georgia could bring the final nail in the coffin for big Phil. Also, Tennessee could pull an Auburn and fire their new OC in the middle of the season.

Anyway, it'll be closer than the experts think. It'll take the Dawgs a half to shake off the Alabama game and the memories of the previous two games against UT, but the Dawgs prevail.

Georgia 31, Tennessee 19

GA vs. TN: The Silver Fox Forecast

It’s October and that time of year. Georgia vs. Tennessee. Autumn. Mostly sunshine, a little rain, and a couple of times: monsoons.

Did you know that Tennessee holds a 20-15-2 edge in the all-time series with Georgia, and that the Vols crushed the Bulldogs by a 35-14 final last season?

At 2-3, underachieving Tennessee is desperate for a victory and, therefore, represents a dangerous opponent for the Bulldogs. The Volunteers will play four of their final six regular season games at home following this weekend's game, and the level of competition is somewhat favorable. Obviously, head coach Phil Fulmer does not want to attempt to climb out of a 2-4 hole.

Tennessee’s offense had to play better in Athens. For the most part, the Vols have been tough defensively this season.

This game may become a classic strong offense vs. strong defense battle.

Did you know that Georgia is averaging 424.8 total yards per game this season? With the obvious exception of the first half of the Alabama game, the Bulldogs defense has played well, particularly against the run.

However, Georgia made critical mistakes against the Crimson Tide and must correct them for its contest against Tennessee.

As for Georgia, it opened the season with four consecutive victories before falling to Alabama two weeks ago. The Bulldogs have had two weeks to prepare for this weekend's game and hope to move to 2-1 in conference. They are playing their second of what will be three straight home games against league foes, as nationally-ranked Vanderbilt comes to town next weekend.

The Silver Fox Forecast: Georgia 27, Tennessee 23.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

About College Football Tickets

Let's face it, college football is an addiction! What's better than waking up on a Saturday morning knowing you've got tickets to the college football game of your FAVORITE team?

Tailgating, BBQ, Message Boards, Painted Face, Fan Singns made of Poster Board (or pizza boxes if you're a student)... Any of this sound familiar? If so, you love college football.

Getting tickets to see your favorite team might not be as easy as painting your school's logo on your chest while looking in the mirror, however, a sure fire way of getting college football tickets is through a registerd ticket broker that carries college football tickets.

You might think to yourself, these "ticket brokers" are just online scalpers... That's not the case. Ticket brokers online are part of what is called the secondary ticket market. This secondary ticket market is a pool of brokers across the country that have tickets for events and put them all into a ticket board. Then any website can sell another broker's tickets.

In addition, ticket brokers give you the option of sitting where you want for the big game. If you've ever ordered tickets over the phoe, through the box office or from a scalper in the parking lot, you don't have much of an option where you sit. However, a ticket website allows you to browse between dozens and hundreds of tickets available for a single event. This ensures that you can choose your seats!

The prices may be slightly higher for tickets through a ticket website (supply and demand) compared to the face value but weigh the options:

1. You can choose where you want to sit
2. You will not get in trouble for doing business with a scalper
3. You have your tickets in hand before the game
4. Your tickets are guaranteed authentic tickets
5. If the game is postponed, cancelled or is not played, you get a full refund
6. Your transaction is processed through a safe and secure server so your identity is guaranteed safe
7. You can always call customer service for help with an order
8. You can often order tickets before they are on sale to the public
9. Tickets will be shipped 2nd day or overnight to any location (even hotels for away games)
10. If you missed your chance at the box office, you've always got a back up with an online ticket broker

If those 10 reasons aren't enough to make you think twice about ordering college football tickets online, then you're a tough cookie to sell. But the difference between you and someone else is that if you refuse to buy tickets online, you may be watching the game at home while someone else is sitting in your 50 yard line seats on the home side enjoying a great game between rivals!

College football tickets are your key to the game and you'd better make sure you've got your Tennessee Vols football tickets. There's nothing like being at the game!

The List: 10 Things Georgia Must Do Against Tennessee to Reassure Fans

Well, the bye week has come and gone, and now we're smack dab in the middle of Tennessee week, where we hear yet again about how Phil Fulmer's seat is so hot, it'd melt the Krispy Kreme right out of his fat ass.

As always, we're going into the Tennessee game with almost more questions than actual answers. From the Alabama loss, you would think that we've gotten our ass whipped the whole season so far.
There are still glaring issues like our lack of a pass rush and the fact that Ron Courson is the busiest UGA staff member. Things like that just absolutely kill a season, and hopefully we can get through these next two games relatively unscathed.
Anyway, in honor of our current out-of-body experience for two years in a row, this week's List will be...


The 10 Things We Need to See on Saturday to Feel Good Again
10) At Least Three Sacks
Tennessee does one thing right consistently: They always have big ol' boys up front on the offensive line. If we can find a way to sack Stephens/Crompton three times or more, then maybe we'll find our niche, much like we did last year after the bye week going into Florida. We've got to get a solid pass rush, or we are seriously looking down the barrel of mediocrity.


9) A Solid Effort from Caleb King
Knowshon was banged up last week, and for some reason, we've seen him come out hurt more often than we have before. Even if he is back from an elbow contusion (see: deep bone bruise), he still isn't probably 100 percent. So what we need in order to make it through this stretch is to get some good solid play from Caleb King & Co.
We need to run Knowshon and have these other RBs come in and see very little drop-off in effectiveness. It'd be nice to have teams see us as an offense that can run the ball all the time, regardless of who's in the backfield.


8) No Sacks on Stafford
As important as it is to get after UT's QB, it's just as important to make sure that ours has as much time as possible to throw the short, intermediate, and long range passes to our hopefully open receivers. Stafford couldn't stay upright against Alabama, and we need our big boys up front to make it happen this upcoming weekend.


7) At Least Two Kickoffs in the End Zone
Blair kicked it pretty well against Alabama from what I can remember, so hopefully we can see more of the same this weekend. Remember, if they can't take it out of the end zone, they can't score a big return against us.


6) Brian Mimbs Needs to Get Back on His Horse
Mimbs was as solid as a rock through the first four games, but against Alabama he got bit by the shanks big time. I still think he's one of the best punters around, but he's gotta put this past game out of his head and get back to rocketing the ball off his foot. I'd much rather out-kick the coverage than have the coverage outrun the punt.


5) Punch UT in the Mouth Early
The best way to get a team that's down on their luck to give up is to not give them a reason to fight. If we come out and buzzsaw the Big Orange like they did to us last year, I guarantee you that you won't see them fight in the second half like we did against Alabama.
I promise if you get UT down by three scores, the orange-clad boo birds come out and their seats empty in a hurry.


4) Go +3 in Turnovers
I know that's kind of a tall order, but in order to be successful in the SEC, you have to consistently win the turnover battle. Our goal should be to force enough fumbles and get enough interceptions to leave UT guessing as to which method of offense is safer for preventing turnovers.
Arian Foster (Mr. Pterodactyl himself) has the tendency to be a fumble machine, and Stephens is thus far unproven as a QB. Let's try to punch that ball out and confuse Stephens enough to make some mistakes when passing. Momentum shifts will play a huge role in this game.


3) Expect UT's Best Shot
As recent history will remind you, the University of Tennessee is actually a MORE dangerous team the hotter Phil Fulmer's seat gets. There's enough money in his contract to give him a long enough leash to try to salvage the season, fire a few coordinators, and try to move on.
There is still no doubt in my mind that UGA is the most talented team in the SEC, but if we don't go into that game thinking that we're in for the fight of our lives, we'll lose on Saturday. No doubt.


2) Put Everything Behind Us
We have played GREAT football up until the Alabama game sans a few areas, so we need to remember that before we hit the field on Saturday. Sure, people want to know how we're going to respond, but all we should be worried about is getting back to business.


1) Just Win Baby
The best way to feel good again? Whip UT's ass. Plain and simple.


Until next time kids.
Be safe.

Is Phil Fulmer's Job at Tennessee Beyond Saving?

The enemy of any football season is apathy, and the danger with the Tennessee program is that one season's misfortune (or several seasons', to hear some of the Fulmer haters tell it) could bleed into the entire program.

If some Vol fans have already given up on this season and this coach, what guarantees their same passionate return (and their same passionate dollars) for the next season, no matter who the coach is?

This thought process reveals itself in a common thread that's emerged in the words of AD Mike Hamilton between Fulmer's current situation and the downfall of Buzz Peterson as men's basketball coach in 2004: concession sales.

Though Roy Williams joked that Peterson was fired because we weren't selling enough popcorn, apparently it's a real enough concern in the minds of those who matter, because it's popped up in the last two articles I've read in the Knoxville News-Sentinel that have contained quotes from Hamilton.

But beyond bottled water, stadium dogs, and dwindling attendance...the overall outlook on Fulmer and the Vols right now is ugly no matter how you slice it.

Fulmer probably saved his job last year in dramatic fashion a number of times, as the only thing that made up for losing at Cal and losing to your two biggest rivals 59-20 and 41-17 was winning the SEC East.

It would've been a lot more interesting had Arian Foster's final drive fumble against South Carolina not been recovered by the Vols, or if Vanderbilt's final field goal hadn't bounced off the upright, or if Kentucky had found a way in any of those four overtimes to put the Vols away.

But Tennessee won each of those games, won the division, and Fulmer was rewarded with a contract extension and a fancy new guarantee that we all took passing note of over the summer, but that now has become incredibly relevant:

Eight wins in the regular season guarantees a new extension.

For this reason, first and foremost, perhaps we should pump the brakes on the fan-driven search for a new head coach.

Not because the voices of the masses that scream for a new leader are necessarily all wrong—but because that's what the contract says.

Eight wins = another year.

The Vols are currently 2-3. The remaining schedule includes Saturday's test at No. 10 Georgia, followed by home dates with Mississippi State and No. 2 Alabama, a trip to South Carolina, a homecoming affair with Wyoming, a suddenly interesting trip to Nashville to play Vanderbilt, and the season finale in Knoxville against Kentucky.

If Tennessee navigates those seven games with only one loss, the Vols will be 8-4. And Fulmer's contract will call for an extension. Those are the facts.

When Mike Hamilton and Phil Fulmer sat down to work on that contract, I think the assumption we all shared was that Hamilton wanted to send the message that Fulmer would be the man until he retired, and Fulmer in turn gave Hamilton some sort of timetable on how long that would be.

They cited recruiting as a key incentive so kids would know that Fulmer would be the man in Knoxville and could quiet the voices of other coaching staffs in the SEC that were telling the same kids otherwise.

Today, those voices have never been louder, and they're coming from almost every corner.

But the language of the contract remains: Eight wins in the regular season guarantees an extension.

Let's say Tennessee does finish 8-4, losing either this Saturday at Georgia or later this month against Alabama, the two most likely culprits. Fulmer's contract would call for an extension.

Then let's say Tennessee plays in the Music City Bowl and loses to a mid-level ACC opponent to finish 8-5. Fulmer's contract would still call for an extension...but with that outcome, fan frustration would have spilled over for many into fan apathy.

You simply cannot stay this frustrated for that long. People will just give up on the team instead.

And when they do, they'll stop buying popcorn.

Under that scenario, the worst possible for Fulmer to still earn his extension...could Mike Hamilton go back on his word and the terms of the contract?

The buyout information we know: six million dollars. But beyond that, would Hamilton pull a 180 less than a year after laying out that contract and go back on the terms he agreed to?

If that scenario plays out and the Vols finish 8-4 with a loss in the bowl game, it's going to be an even uglier scene in Knoxville than what it is now. Because for so many fans (and probably some of the high dollar donors who keep the wheels turning) Fulmer is beyond saving.

8-4 shouldn't save him, and neither should 9-3 in their minds. They've crossed the line.

It was easy to put a positive spin on last season's 10-4 finish because the Vols won the SEC East and won their bowl game. If those unlikely circumstances don't break the Vols' way again this season, there won't be anything left to spin.

The naysayers will continue to cry out with plenty of evidence, and even those who want to support Fulmer wouldn't have much to stand on with an 8-5 finish...except that eight wins is good enough for a contract extension.

That scenario would create even more division with less positive in the conversation than ever before. Mike Hamilton would be put in an awkward and difficult place—and Phillip Fulmer would be caught in the crossfire, much like his predecessor Johnny Majors.

Both men did tremendous things for the University of Tennessee, but both men may end up going out the hard way under the manipulation of the athletic director (and say what you want, but if Fulmer wins eight games and Hamilton decides to go in another direction, contract manipulation is exactly what it will be).

The projected outcomes don't look good—and we're already plenty frustrated.

Of course, Fulmer could put an end to all this.

I retain the position that the best possible scenario for all involved would be for Fulmer to announce that 2009 will be his final season as head coach, which would put something definitive on the table and usher in a new head coach while still allowing the current one to go out on the terms and in the way he deserves.

But since I don't see that happening, it brings us back to the present moment of frustration with a potentially darker future ahead.

It brings us this week to Athens, which might be the final game of significance for the Vols this season.

Consider this: Knowing the language of the contract, if the Vols lose at Georgia, where they're 13-point underdogs, Tennessee will be 2-4.

That means one more loss would free Hamilton from the language of the contract.

It wouldn't free him from the six million dollar buyout. But it also wouldn't put him in a potentially unethical situation—it would free him with a clear mind and conscience to pull the trigger on a move if that's what he deemed best for the program.

What it would also do is create a perverse second half of the season.

Ever seen those movies where the troubled head coach is told he has to win every game or he'll be fired?

Truth can be stranger than fiction.

The least of us who are already cheering for Tennessee to lose so we can get a new head coach might have a more tangible reason to do so after Saturday. If the Vols lose to Georgia, Fulmer would have to finish 6-0 to get that guaranteed extension.

Look, we don't know if Tennessee is good enough to score enough points to beat Georgia. Or Alabama. Or Vanderbilt. Or anyone else on the schedule that's left. And we won't until we see it play out.

Tennessee will be the underdog at least twice more, and probably rightfully so, but you just don't know until you see it. It's pointless to discuss Tennessee's odds of beating Alabama right now. All they can do is play Georgia.

So finally...having said all the negative...it remains true that if the Vols somehow find a way to beat Georgia, they remain relevant for another week.

Not waiting for next year or the next head coach, but still relevant in 2008—and relevance is the best cure for apathy.

If the SEC football gods are even kinder and LSU beats Florida on Saturday night, the Vols will be just one more Florida slip-up (and an assumed Vanderbilt collapse) from being back in the driver's seat in the SEC East. Stranger than fiction indeed.

Beating Georgia won't save Fulmer's job. But it can keep it alive for another week.

Whether it builds towards eight wins and a contract extension, or the potential to be a player in the SEC East race...all that will have to work itself out each and every week. But Fulmer, and the Vols, would still be alive in the present moment for 2008.

A schedule that should bring an Alabama team ranked no lower than No. 2 to Knoxville on Oct. 25 will offer an additional opportunity to make some noise in 2008.

Every season tells a story, and while this one has been a nightmare for the Vols thus far, it's going to be interesting to the finish either way.

Will Fulmer get to eight wins, and if he does, what will Hamilton do with the state of the program as it currently is?

If he doesn't, then is that it? And if so, who's next in Knoxville?

Or can Tennessee pick up an upset in there somewhere to stay relevant in the SEC East race?

Can we still somehow play for a championship this season while we're playing for Fulmer's future?

All the tension, emotion, and both the present and future direction of the Tennessee program come together in Athens on Saturday.

Lose, and the apathy grows and you're one more loss away from your guaranteed extension.

Lose, and more fans cross the point of no return, which sooner or later Hamilton is going to cross if the losses keep piling up.

Lose, and the opportunity to leave the university you've done so much for on your own terms slips further and further out of your own hands.

But win...

Win, and we live to play this game all over again next week.

But at least we'll have something to play for.

Go Vols.

Tennessee Volunteers' Phil Fulmer In No Win Situation

Phil Fulmer is fighting an uphill battle that he will not win. The question now isn't whether or not he will be at Tennessee next year but what the terms of his exit will be. Tennessee fans are holding their breath hoping that he will go out graciously and negotiate rather than have to be fired.

So why is Fulmer in this situation? Well, for starters, he has started out 2-3 and those two wins were against urban (Alabama-Birmingham) and directional (Northern Illinois) schools. And neither were impressive.

The losses were against Florida (who Tennessee under Fulmer has mental demons when playing), Auburn (who now owns a four-game win streak over Tennessee) and UCLA (who has been pounded by most everyone else they have played).

Let's face it. Tennessee fans have a right to be upset and they also know when they are being given excuses rather than reasons.

Some people are saying Fulmer is the victim of past success. Don't believe it. The real truth is that there is a life cycle to a coach these days and Phil is past his. He just doesn't want to admit it to himself or others.

Penn State and FSU seem to be ok with letting their coaches stay long past their natural life spans in some attempt to be the school that can claim the title of having the coach with the most wins ever in college football. But other than those two schools, nobody else wants a coach that long anymore.

Phil's just not smart enough to know this. Spurrier (superior to Fulmer in almost every way including this one) knew it. After about a decade with the Gators, he stepped away. He had more success at Florida in that decade than Phil has had in his career, but he knew it was time to go.

When he left the NFL and was rumored to want back in the college game, the Florida AD called Spurrier before interviewing anyone else. Spurrier declined. That's because just like he knew when it was time to go, he also knew that you just can't go back. It will never be the same.

So Fulmer has outstayed his welcome and that has put fans in a restless mood and has created the following no-win situation for him. If he beats a quality opponent, the fans will ask why the team can't play with that effort, consistency and results all year long.

If he loses to a quality opponent, they will say he has lost the ability to win the big game and will cite his losing collective record against Florida, Bama, Georgia, Auburn, and LSU. If he loses to someone he shouldn't lose to, they'll say he can't even beat the teams he should anymore. If he beats someone he shouldn't lose to, they'll give him no credit as that was supposed to be a win.

He has just reached that point. He actually reached it last year but then lucked into the SEC championship which gave his buddy Hamilton an excuse not to do anything (and it doesn't seem to take much for Hamilton to take that stance with Fulmer).

Even die-hard Tennessee fans realize that Florida, having won the head to head with Tennessee, had to then lose three games last year for the Vols to "back into" the championship. Florida did happen to lose enough games which then opened that door.

This year, Phil finds himself needing that same door to be opened to keep his job but this year the odds are longer. Right now, Tennessee would have to win out and Florida lose twice more.

Not only does it look highly unlikely Tennessee wins out but Florida going 3-2 seems equally unlikely given they have games against Kentucky and South Carolina that seem pretty winnable for them. But when you take the odds of BOTH Tennessee winning out and Florida dropping 2 games together, Phil is truly behind the eight ball.

For one, I will be happy to see it. Tennessee is one of the only major programs in the SEC not to have made a significant coaching upgrade since 2000. Florida got Meyer and dropped Zook. Bama got Saban and dropped Shula. Georgia switched Donnan for Richt. Even LSU traded pretty even getting Miles after Saban left for the Dolphins. When you don't keep up, you get left behind. This isn't hard.

Tennessee fans are realizing this and are becoming much more vocal with both their words and their dollars. There is an uprising at UT and Phil is about to be shown just how wonderful retired life can be

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The 25 Best SEC Football Rivalries

Here is my list for the best rivalries in the SEC. Teams outside the conference are also included such as Georgia Tech in the Tech-Georgia rivalry. The rankings are based on several factors including history, number of games, proximity, competitiveness, recent relevance and the hate/respect factor.



1. Alabama-Auburn (Iron Bowl) 72 times met, Alabama leads 38-33-1

- Hands Down



2. Florida-Georgia (World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party) 85, Georgia leads 46-37-2

- Keeps getting better



3. Auburn-Georgia (Deep South's Oldest Rivalry) 111, Auburn leads 53-50-8

- The most “respected” rivalry



4. Tennessee-Alabama (Third Saturday in October) 90, Alabama leads 45-38-7

- Two winningest programs in the SEC



5. Florida-Florida St. (Battle for the Governor's Cup) 52, Florida leads 31-19-2

- Rivalry is fading a bit



6. Ole Miss-Miss St. (Egg Bowl) 104, Ole Miss leads 59-39-6

- Underrated, intense rivalry



7. S. Carolina-Clemson (The Palmetto Bowl) 105, Clemson leads 64-37-4

- Longest uninterrupted series in the south



8. Georgia-Georgia Tech (Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate) 102, Georgia leads 59-38-5

- Two very different schools only 70 miles apart



9. Tennessee-Florida (Third Saturday in September) 37, series tied 19-19

- UT won first 10 games of even series



10. Auburn-LSU (Tiger Bowl) 43, LSU leads 23-19-1

- Fast-rising SEC rivalry



11. LSU-Alabama (Saban Bowl) 71, Alabama leads 44-22-5

- Nick Saban instantly moved this rivalry way up



12. Arkansas-Texas 76, Texas leads 55-21

- One of the best “intermittent” rivalries



13. LSU-Ole Miss (Southern Tradition) 95, LSU leads 55-37-4

- Old-time rivalry is declining



14. Alabama-Miss St. (The 90-Mile Drive) 92, Alabama leads 71-19-2

- Lopsided rivalry of teams with closest proximity in SEC



15. Tennessee-Vanderbilt (I-40 Bowl) 102, Tennessee leads 69-28-5

- Beating Vanderbilt was General Neyland’s only job requirement



16. Florida-Miami (Battle for the Seminole War Canoe) 53, Miami leads 27-26

- Another intense “intermittent” rivalry



17. Tennessee-Kentucky (Border Bowl) 103, Tennessee leads 71-23-9

- UT holds nation's longest active winning streak over one team, 26 over Kentucky



18. LSU-Tulane (Battle for the Rag) 96, LSU leads 67-22-7

- The satin flag is fought for between these old SEC rivals



19. Georgia-South Carolina (The Border Bash) 60, Georgia leads 45-13-2

- Game means much more to South Carolina



20. Kentucky-Louisville (Battle for the Governor's Cup) 21, Kentucky leads 12-9

- Bigger basketball rivalry



21. Ole Miss-Arkansas (The "Nutt" Bowl) 54, Arkansas leads 29-24-1

- Geographically close schools' rivalry revved up with Houston Nutt moving to Ole Miss



22. LSU-Arkansas (Battle for the Golden Boot) 53, LSU leads 33-18-2

-Winner receives heaviest trophy in sports, 175 lb. gold boot



23. Florida-Auburn 82, Auburn leads 42-38-2

- Annual rivalry stopped when SEC split divisions has memorable history



24. Tennessee-Georgia 37, Tennessee leads 20-15-2

- Competitive SEC East battle



25. Arkansas-Texas A&M 65, Arkansas leads 38-24-3

- Historical Southwest Conference rivalry will renew in 2009 in Dallas

Tennessee-Northern Illinois Report Card: Better Start Earning Some Extra Credit

Tennessee had a change under center, as Nick Stephens got the start at quarterback. Tennessee went out and got an uninspiring 13-9 victory against Northern Illinois of the MAC. Let's take a look at the report card:



OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Nick Stephens was 10-of-17 for 156 yards; two incompletions were drops. Stephens showed poise and pocket presence and appeared to manage the offense well. His touchdown pass to Denarius Moore was the best pass thrown all year.

Stephens made a couple of dangerous throws and took a costly sack on third-and-goal that led to a missed FG. Stephens short-hopped a pass to an open Austin Rogers with the game in the balance.

GRADE: C



Running Backs

Arian Foster (18 carries, 75 yards) hit the corner a couple of times, but continues to get caught from behind on other runs. Foster also showed a lack of power (maybe heart?) on short-yardage runs.

Montario Hardesty had only seven carries and never got into a groove. Also, there were limited plays from the "G-gun."

GRADE: D



Receivers

The plus is for Denarius Moore, who used his speed to make the biggest play of the game, hauling in a 52-yard TD pass. Josh Briscoe had two catches for 22 yards but fumbled.

Brandon Warren and Gerald Jones each dropped a pass, and Jones was called for being an ineligible man downfield.

For a school known as "Wide Receiver U," Tennessee lacks a pure deep threat who can beat tight coverage and get the deep ball against tough SEC opponents.

GRADE: D



Offensive Line

The Vol O-Line outweighed the Husky D-Line by 45 pounds per man and got outplayed. Tennessee only got 69 yards net rushing.

Ramon Foster's missed block led to Stephens taking a fumble-inducing hit. Jacques McClendon had motion penalties on consecutive plays. No surge on short-yardage plays.

GRADE: F



DEFENSE

Defensive Line

In the past, Tennessee would take these inferior non-conference opponents and just dominate them with their line play. That was not the case on Saturday.

They looked very ordinary much of the night, as Wes Brown recorded one sack and Dan Williams a 1/2 sack. Demonte Bolden got a silly personal foul for a late hit.

GRADE: D+



Linebackers

Looked aggressive the whole game, but NIU was falling forward on most of its runs. Nevin McKenzie had nine tackles, two tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks. Rico McCoy was in on eight tackles and had a sack. Nick Reveiz had four stops after getting the start.

GRADE: C



Secondary

Eric Berry is one of the best defensive backs in the entire country. His interception and 48-yard return was the highlight. However, this was the secondary's worst game of the season.

NIU receivers were open often, but the Huskies' third-team QB couldn't find them. Dennis Rogan was called for holding, and DeAngelo Willingham had a pass interference. These are things you should not do against a MAC opponent.

GRADE: B-



SPECIAL TEAMS

A week after I give them credit for nearly winning the Auburn game, the special teams went out and laid an egg. While coverage was good, Daniel Lincoln's kicking was disconcerting.

Lincoln made field goals of 36 and 34 yards, but one bounced off the upright and the other one just slipped inside the upright. Lincoln missed a 32-yarder. Chad Cunningham had a punt partially blocked.

GRADE: C-



COACHING

Well, I will give Fulmer credit for pulling the trigger on Stephens. Clawson also did a admirable job in getting him ready to play.

Time management wasn't a problem, and the only turnover was Briscoe's fumble. Defense played hard despite being on the field 33:05.

The only real mistake I noticed was after two consecutive timeouts with the game winding down, Stephens was sacked and then Lincoln went out and missed a field goal that would have at least put Tennessee up by a touchdown.

GRADE: C



OVERALL GPA: 1.55

So even though the game was a win, Tennessee got a worse GPA than in the loss to Auburn. Not good.

Tennessee kept it simple so they could break in a new starting quarterback. However, simple will not get it done next Saturday Between the Hedges at Georgia.

Getting to the Game

Whenever I need Tennessee Volunteers football tickets, I find myself at Front Row King, a great place for cheap college football tickets!