Last week’s article saw the Vols clear some big hurdles, namely beating NC State and finally breaking that ugly streak against the Gators in front of a sold out Neyland Stadium. (This needs to happen by the way, Vol Nation.)

This week has its own challenges: the Georgia Bulldogs between The Hedges and Mississippi State on the road in Starkvillle. But first a slight reprieve:

Saturday 9/22 Akron

The Zips allow the Vols a little time to revel in their victories and prepare for what will be their toughest challenge yet: the defending SEC East champs. But of course, first Akron must be beaten and sent back to the great state of Ohio. (This is where you roll your eyes....) All the Vols have to do is come out of this one injury-free.

I’m sure that Coach Dooley and staff will let us know what a tough opponent Terry Bowden’s team brings to Neyland Stadium and that he and his team are not looking past the Akron game. However, this is scheduled as a cupcake game for a reason because frankly in the SEC there is no shame in padding your schedule with a few “lighter” opponents. And unless you’re Ole Miss (bless their hearts, what WERE they thinking??) this is common practice across the conference. I think the reason for this is simple: this is the toughest, winningest league in the country. Conference games are typically brutal slug fests meant to beat down and conquer fellow league rivals.

In the SEC, every conference game is up for grabs and the result are contests that are no holds barred slobber knockers. SEC teams NEED soft, out of conference games when you’re fighting for your life week in and week out to have a shot at Atlanta.

But where were we?? Oh yes, Akron. Well Terry Bowden is the son of some other famous Bowden and we know that Derek Dooley also has a daddy of some significance but other than that I can’t seem to make this interesting. The Zips are deep and physical in their WR corps. They will most likely be playing a dual quarterback system. The cries of “youth and inexperience” pervade their blogs. Where have we heard that before, Volunteers?

Prediction: UT- 42 Akron- 21

Saturday 9/29 @ Georgia

Vince Dooley won the Bulldogs a National Championship over 3 decades ago. He doesn’t come to the Tennessee games in Athens since his son was hired in Knoxville, he only wears white while watching at home, and so forth and so on....  We all know Coach’s mama is proud.

I don’t care.

Mark Richt is an underachieving coach who managed to get his players to the Championship game last year and has been predicted by many to have a very legitimate shot at taking that trip again this season. That is,  if he can keep his players eligible long enough to do so; it’s been a tough offseason for those following the exploits in Athens.

Once again, I don’t care.

This is going to be a hard fought game that probably won’t be easy to watch. There will be high passing yards for both teams and some defensive hits that’ll make you wince. This is a loud hostile environment for Tennessee’s first road game and second East opponent.  The current trend could continue on UGA’s campus and Richt’s roster might maintain its downward spiral. But I don’t want to see the Volunteers win on the back of attrition. I want the Bulldogs to be full strength September 29th.

Georgia weaknesses: a lacking offensive line and depleted run power.

Todd Grantham’s defense will be the Bulldogs’ advantage once all the suspended players return to the field, which should happen right about the time UT rolls into town.

Tennessee weaknesses: a new multiple scheme defense and questions on special teams.

Coach Sal Sunseri’s moment to shine could come between the hedges. This game will be won not through the air but on the line. There will be points, lots of points but I think the Vols fall short.

Prediction: UT- 38 UGA- 44


Saturday 10/6 Bye Week

Game of Note this week: UGA/USCe


Saturday 10/13 @ Mississippi State

Dan Mullen. Starkville. Cowbells. If the Vols lose this game I won’t be surprised.

A loss to an Eastern division rival just 2 weeks before plus the 3rd Saturday in October looming ahead of them, the Vols might just slip up and lose to that other Bulldog team in the SEC. This is what I like to call a “sandwich trap” and it is the most rigid definition of a trap game; a game played against a lesser opponent between two tougher ones.

New quarterback, Tyler Russell takes over this season in a vain attempt to bring a more consistent passing game back for the Bulldogs. Mullen and his team can talk the talk but with the questions surrounding this team in what is clearly a rebuilding year for State, they will be hard pressed to walk the walk.

State fans are waving the Mullen flag on campus in Starkville, making comparisons to Spurrier at South Carolina, convinced that their maroon and white luck is about to change. BUT I don’t think it happens today. Jonathan Banks can’t cover all of Tennessee’s receivers and I expect Bray and company to put the ball in the endzone early and often. Not this year, Dan Mullen. By the way, Starkville is NOT the #1 college town in the nation. Sorry, Mississippi State, but it isn’t.

Prediction: UT- 41 MSU- 17