Over the last several years, the Tennessee Vols have played in numerous close games against opponents who didn’t possess the same talent level as UT.
Last season, the Vols looked less than stellar in a 24-0 win against UTEP and a 14-3 win against Charlotte.
In 2017, Tennessee beat an overmatched UMass team only 17-13.
Even in 2016, when the Vols beat Florida and Georgia in the same season for the first time since 2004, they played in some close games that shouldn’t have been close at all.
The Vols needed overtime to get past Appalachian State and they looked downright terrible in a 28-19 win against Ohio.
All of those games, which were suppose to be blowout wins, showed us that Tennessee was not playing at a very high level.
Oftentimes, when a team doesn’t play well against a lower level opponent, excuses fly faster than Steve Spurrier quips about the Vols.
“Not wanting to show too much” is what fans and media analysts will say if a team wins by only a couple of scores in the first game of the year against a FCS team, or an obviously overmatched FBS team.
But if we’re being honest, we know that Power-five programs with bowl game hopes should blow out teams who don’t have anywhere close to the same level of talent.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) August 28, 2019
That should be the case on Saturday when the Vols open the 2019 season against Georgia State.
Sure, the Vols might be a bit vanilla on offense against the Panthers. Jeremy Pruitt told reporters earlier this week that Tennessee plans to be “simple on both sides of the ball”. But he also added that being simple will give the Vols a chance to “play fast and try to win each play”.
Even a “bland” offensive approach by Tennessee should be enough to dominate a Georgia State team that won only two games last season.
To feel good about the Vols moving forward this season, we need to see a Tennessee team that dominates from whistle to whistle on Saturday.
If the UT goes out on Saturday and wins 24-14, it won’t be a good sign for the rest of the season. There’s no excuse good enough to cover up a lackluster performance against a team that Alabama or Georgia would beat 70-0.
Tennessee needs to show off their improved team speed on Saturday. They also need to show off the crispness that’s typically associated with a Jim Chaney led offense.
If the Vols win 52-3, or by some other wide margin, it will be dismissed by most analysts simply because that’s how they should win.
But we’ve seen plenty of instances in recent years where Tennessee didn’t do what they were expected to do. A win by a wide margin will be a positive sign for UT. It’s that simple. I’m not saying a big win in the opener is reason for increased hype for Tennessee, but it will mean the program is progressing the way it should under Pruitt. In other words, it’ll mean they’re on the right path.
If the Vols show a relentless hunter against Georgia State, and go out and make a statement, then I’ll feel pretty good about Tennessee’s chances of winning seven or eight games in 2019.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports