Archive for the 'Florida State' Category

Tennessee Volunteers: The Spotlight Effect and Who’s Due for Good and Bad Games

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

It’s not exactly a closely-guarded secret that the Tennessee Volunteers are acutely affected by others’ impressions of them. As a general rule, great expectations lead to great disappointments (either an outright loss or an unimpressive win) and double-digit spreads motivate them to prove everyone wrong.

This phenomenon occurs both collectively and on an individual level. If you haven’t noticed it yet, watch it for awhile, and it will become clear.

As one corporate example, the 1997 team was led by Peyton Manning and staffed with NFL talent, but they underachieved (a bit). The next year, there were essentially no expectations for the entire season. After all, Peyton was gone, and Tee Martin had never started a game. When Jamal Lewis was hurt early in the season, all hopes went down the drain. But by the end of the season, the team was undefeated and ranked number 1 in the country. Even then, though, their opponent — a one-loss Florida State Seminole team — was favored to win the BCS National Championship game. Heck, after they won, the commentators chalked the Vol win up to the fact that FSU had to play with a third-string quarterback.

The next year, with essentially the same team returning (plus Jamal Lewis), the expectations were again sky high, and the team underachieved yet again.

On the individual level, watch just about any player the week following a week during which they garner significant attention. It’s most often a bust.

There are exceptions to the Spotlight Effect — see, e.g., Jason Allen and Jessee Mahelona. The exceptions are generally found in very mature and experienced players, those that not only are solid character guys, but have probably already fallen victim to the Spotlight Effect a time or two and vowed to never let it happen again.

Still the general rule holds true. When the Spotlight shines, the team, unit, or player often wilts, and when the Spotlight is directed away from the team, the unit, or the player, they excel in the peripheral glow in an attempt to get back into the Spotlight.

So, under the Spotlight Effect, who’s due for good and bad performances this week against the dreaded Georgia Bulldogs?

Expect Good Games from:

  • The Wide Receiver Corps. The “this is one of the most talented group of receivers in the country” meme is finally dying off. The receivers have been praised to high heaven since the final whistle last season, and it was only this week that a new meme began to propagate. Former Vol and current lawyer and sports agent Tim Irwin apparently called them out on a local t.v. or radio show earlier this week saying that they “looked like Tarzan and played like Jane.” John Pennington has been saying the same thing for a few weeks now, and Knoxville sports radio hosts and callers have jumped on the band wagon this week. So, the Spotlight is off the group and they finally have something to prove. Expect that they will.
  • Rick Clausen.This poor guy is still not getting getting his due. UT fans seem to appreciate him — in a sort of backhanded way. “Oh, he’s a great leader and decision-maker. Too bad he can’t do anything but dink it around.” So everyone, including the coaches, are telling Rick that he can’t throw the long ball. You’d think they’d have learned not to tell Rick he can’t do something. Maybe he can’t throw it 80 yards, but I don’t know that he can’t throw it 40 or 50, and really, that’s plenty. And so what if he can’t? Isn’t he the same style of quarterback as David Greene, who became the winningest quarterback in SEC history? Check that, in NCAA history. I think that Rick is too mature and experienced to suffer the negative effects of having the Spotlight shine on him, but I think he’s still motivated by people telling him he can’t do it.

Expect a Poor Game from:

  • The Secondary. In stark contrast to the high expectations of the wide receiver corps, everyone has said from day one that the Vols’ biggest weakness was its secondary (apart from Jason Allen). But the thing is, they’ve actually played quite well. For two games in a row now, the secondary has made big plays, first with Jonathan Heffney’s interception-for-an-almost-touchdown against LSU and second with Jonathan Wade’s interception-for-a-touchdown last week against Ole Miss, and the group has rightly received its due this week from local media and fans. Unfortunately, Spotlight Theory suggests that will be the kiss of death this week or next. Let’s hope, though, that this group is mature and experienced enough to thwart the theory. Allen can, and perhaps Wade has learned his lesson (subscription required):

    “Last year, there were times when I might have had a good game and it went to my head,” Wade said. “Then, the next game was just horrendous.

    “I know now that one game means nothing if the rest of them are bad. I’m just trying to stay humble and stay focused.”

Let’s hope.

The Race to the Rose Bowl (with Logos!): Week Five

Sunday, October 2nd, 2005

The Tennessee Volunteers arguably didn’t get the bump they deserved for beating the LSU Tigers last Monday night (because the win was after last week’s Coaches’ Poll), but they survived a potential let-down game against the Ole Miss Rebels.

Here are the horses after Week Five:

The Gators fall out of the top ten to number 15 after getting thumped by the Alabama Crimson Tide, who enter the race at number 10. The Gators’ loss makes the Vols’ loss to the Gators look worse, but it’s a necessary evil because the Vols have virtually no chance at the Rose Bowl without winning the SEC Championship, and they can’t do that unless the Gators lose two SEC games. The Gators losing to Bama is a good start, and they play both Georgia and LSU in the next several weeks, so it’s not out of the question. Plus, the Vols can redeem themselves by beating the Crimson Tide if Bama is still in the top ten at that time.

Again, look at UT’s schedule:

  • Play Florida when the Gators are ranked, what was it, number 5?
  • Play LSU when the Tigers are ranked number 4.
  • Play Georgia this week when the Bulldogs are ranked number 4.
  • Play Alabama and Notre Dame later, who are now numbers 10 and 12, respectively.

Potentially 5 top ten teams. Maybe another in the SEC Championship. If the Vols can come out of that schedule with only one loss, should they be ranked above even some no-loss teams with lesser schedules?

See the Race to the Rose Bowl from the beginning:

Top 5 Games Under Coach Phillip Fulmer

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Monday night’s come-from-behind victory against the LSU Tigers has spawned a lot of discussion on Knoxville talk radio about the best Tennessee Volunteer football games in the Phillip Fulmer area. Here are my top 5:

  1. Tennessee v. Florida State, 1998 National Championship. Capping off a perfect season, the Volunteers frustrated Peter Warrick into a sideline tantrum and beat the Seminoles under an orange moon in Tempe, Arizona.
  2. Tennessee v. Florida, 1998. The Vols and Coach Fulmer ended a losing streak against nemesis Steve Spurrier when the Gators missed a field goal in overtime. All Vol fans will remember the call by John Ward, the Voice of the Vols: “No . . . sir . . . eee, pandemonium reigns,” as the crowd rushed the field and ripped down the goal post. The win was the catalyst for the perfect season and the national championship.
  3. Tennessee at Florida, 2001. A 17-point underdog, Tennessee’s Travis Stephens — the guy who was too small to carry the load for the Vols for an entire season — pounded the Gators on the ground, running around, over, and through the Florida defense for over 200 yards. Essentially a playoff game with everything on the line, the win catapulted the Vols into the SEC Championship game. If they had won in Atlanta the next week, they would have gone on to the Rose Bowl and a national championship game. Losing instead to LSU took a little luster off the big Florida win.
  4. Tennessee v. Arkansas, 1998. With a perfect season coming to a close in the final minutes against the Hogs, Arkansas just needed to run out the clock. But the defensive line blew an offensive lineman up immediately after the snap, pushing him backwards and causing the quarterback to trip as he was pulling out from under center. The quarterback put his ball-hand on the ground to steady himself — and fumbled, untouched. Tennessee’s Billy Ratliff recovered, and the Vols, behind running back Travis Henry, marched some 40 yards into the end zone to keep their perfect season and national championship hopes alive.
  5. Tennessee at LSU, 2005. Rick Clausen — The Rudy of the New Millennium, Nobody’s All-American — told by former LSU coach Nick Saban that he was not good enough to play in the SEC and told by UT coach Phillip Fulmer that he was not good enough to start for the Vols, came off the bench after starting quarterback Erik Ainge’s train wreck of a half to lead one of the greatest comebacks in Tennessee football history. Down 21-0 at halftime and 24-7 going into the 4th quarter, Clausen and the Vols beat all odds, finally finding an offensive rhythm after two and a half games and kicking a team while it was down in full view of its rabid fans and a sympathetic nation.
  6. Any I’ve missed? Comments?

    Go Vols!

The Race to the Rose Bowl: Week Two

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

Okay, the Tennessee Volunteers didn’t play, but there sure were some good football games this weekend. The Big Ten got spanked, with Ohio State getting torched by Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, Michigan fumbling its way to a loss to Notre Dame, and Iowa on the other end of a route, losing big to Iowa State.
Here’s the top ten of the Coaches’ Poll:So Southern Cal and Texas stay ahead of the pack, and LSU overtakes the Volunteers and Michigan, who, having dropped the football at the goal line, drops out of the top ten. Iowa also drops out of the top ten. Georgia and Florida move ahead together, while Ohio State drops to the back after losing a close one to the Longhorns. Newcomers FSU and Louisville enter the race at numbers 8 and 10, respectively.

Just look at the Vols’ schedule: they play number 7 Florida next week and number 3 the following week. A few short weeks later, they play number 6, but at least that one’s at Neyland Stadium. Oh, and by the way, UT plays Notre Dame, which is now ranked number 10 in the AP poll, a bit later on as well, at South Bend. And even Vanderbilt (VANDERBILT!) is 2-0.

The Rocky Road is shaping up to be even bumpier than anticipated.

See the Race to the Rose Bowl from the beginning:

The Race to the Rose Bowl: Week Two (and enough fooling around!)

Monday, September 12th, 2005

This is my first post by WordPress to my new domain. I just spent way too much time trying to get the table and the graphics to work — like I did for Week One — and I still don’t have it figured out yet. Something about the table cells being too wide.

Anyway, for now, here’s the top ten, according to the Coaches Poll:

  • Southern Cal
  • Texas
  • LSU
  • Tennessee (tied for 4th)
  • Virginia Tech (tied for 4th)
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Florida State
  • Ohio State
  • Louisville
  • More later. With logos, hopefully!

    Tennessee Volunteers Drop to Number 5 in College Football News Poll

    Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

    The Tennessee Volunteers dropped from number 3 to number 5 — not that bad — in the College Football News poll. Here’s the top ten:

      Ohio State
      Virginia Tech
      Florida State