The schedule says that the Tennessee Volunteers football team takes on the LSU Tigers at Baton Rouge this Saturday night. Currently ranked number 3 in the Race to the Rose Bowl, LSU is a tough opponent.
But the Vols’ adversaries this weekend are numerous. Consider the following:
- The LSU Fans. Due to Hurricane Katrina, this will be the Tigers’ first homegame of the season, and the usually crazed LSU fans, who always have it cranked up to 11 at home games anyway, will come absolutely unhinged Saturday night. Folks, this one goes to 12.
- The Nation.Again, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, the nation will be pulling for LSU. A small pocket of Vol fans in East Tennessee seek to kick a man while he’s down. Nobody but the kicker appreciates that.
- Themselves. And speaking of kickers, well, let’s just say the Vols have some work to do in this area. Tennessee has been its own worst enemy in its first two games. An uncomfortable win over Alabama-Birmingham was marred by dropped passes, and special teams goofs were the proximate cause of last week’s loss to the Florida Gators. The Vols must find their rhythm if they are to have any chance of victory at Baton Rouge this weekend.
- Rhythm.And aren’t the segue’s working nicely this morning? The Vols have yet to find their rhythm this season, primarily due to choosing to rotate quarterbacks Rick Clausen and Erik Ainge. Ainge played well the first two drives of the UAB game and had his rhythm broken when Clausen, who played well for most of the rest of the game, rotated in. The Vols arguably made the same mistake in reverse against Florida, yanking Clausen after two drives before sticking with Ainge. The receivers dropped several passes the first game, and Ainge said he and the receivers couldn’t get in sync against Florida. Enter Hurricane Katrina, which has displaced practically the entire population of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Thousands have sought refuge in Baton Rouge, increasing its population by 50%. No hotels are available for the football team Friday night, and so the Vols are flying into Louisiana on game day instead. A minor inconvenience compared to the displaced populace to be sure, but definitely not good news for a team seeking to find its stride.
- Hurricane Rita. Katrina’s little sister is bearing down on Texas, and Baton Rouge expects some ancillary action in the form of rain. Lots of it. Word Association Game: what do you think of when you hear the phrase “Volunteer Football” and the word “rain?” One nightmarish game in Neyland Stadium against the Gators, mmmm?
This Week on ESPN: the Sputtering Tennessee Volunteers attempt to kick a man while he’s down in full view of his rabid fans and a sympathetic nation.