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Can you tell it’s Florida week?

It’s that time of year when the blood begins to boil and the players begin to eat gator meat as part of ritual.

This year’s rivalry game may just feature some organized sartorial splendor. And there is even a website devoted to its organization.

Checkerboard Neyland

So, what color will you be wearing? You can find out at the website. Or, bring two shirts – one orange, one white – and be ready for anything… or help out a bluehair that doesn’t have internet access, or a computer for that matter.

What was the difference between a Vols win and today’s loss?

Georgia 35  Tennessee 32

*****

After a highly entertaining first half, the game went curiously dead in the third quarter with both teams failing to take advantage of the other’s misfortunes: Georgia (as predicted) got pass happy (to its demise), and Tennessee seemingly ran out of ideas as well as a quarterback (more about that later). But in the end, the difference was a trifecta…

Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley tries to elude the tackle of Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium Saturday September 27, 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley tries to elude the tackle of Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium Saturday September 27, 2014. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

A Heisman Trophy candidate. Todd Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards and scored two touchdowns. His 51-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter put his team up by 11 with 9:30 left in the game. It was a back breaker to a Vols defense that (again) performed valiantly on the road in a hostile setting.

A punt and fumble. Vol freshman running back Jalen Hurd burned the biscuits by dropping a handoff from QB Justin Worley with only 4:21 left in the contest. The worst part was it happened in the end zone (the Vols were at their one yard line), and Josh Dawson, who recovered it, was wearing a red jersey. It put the Dawgs ahead by ten, 35-25. Worley followed by marching the Vols quickly down the field for a TD to cut the margin by 3 with only a bit more than two minutes left. What could have been… yes. But it all started with a 50-yard Collin Barber punt that was downed by Georgia at the Volunteer one yard line. One big play was followed by another big play by the Bulldogs.

An elbow. Tennessee senior QB Justin Worley threw for 264 yards and three TDs. But in the middle of it all, he missed much of a disastrous third quarter after being hit on his throwing elbow during a pass rush. Enter reserve QB Nathan Peterman. Remember last year’s debacle in Gainesville? It all looked so familiar this time again. Except that it started out looking promising. On the first drive after Worley’s elbow was knocked numb, Tennessee unveiled a reverse and then a double-reverse to help Peterman march the Vols deep into Bulldog territory. But then misfortune came a-knocking as Peterman and Marlin Lane for an instant pretended to not know each other on a handoff that resulted in a drive-killing fumble. It was recovered by Josh Dawson. Yes, that Josh Dawson wearing a red jersey.

Can the Bulldogs implode?

TENNESSEE AT GEORGIA

Sanford Stadium | Athens | Saturday 27 September 2014 | 12:00pm EDT

♦♦♦♦♦

It’s a fair question because I see it as the only way the Vols come out of Athens on Saturday with a win.

sad-face-bulldogIf Georgia gets pass happy, then that is what I would dump in the category of implosion. The Dawgs best strategy would be to run and run and keep on running (regardless of early game results) in order to eventually wear down a Tennessee defense that will fight to the very death as they showed in Norman two weeks ago. That’s what Georgia does best. Anything else would be foolish.

But we’ve seen the Bulldogs do foolish things in the past in this rivalry that has had an unpredictable nature to it. We’ve seen some pretty sad puppy faces as a result. I don’t see it this year.

Georgia 34  Tennessee 21

How do you see Saturday’s contest?

Is Georgia on your mind?

Tennessee’s next foe disappointed in their first conference game but followed with a thrashing of Troy that had the scribes leafing through the record books. Georgia’s 66-0 win on Saturday was their most points scored in 20 years and their largest winning margin since 1958.

But perhaps most notable to Vols fans who have been watching all the new faces in orange was that Georgia road the backs of two freshmen of their own — both who just a year ago were playing on the same high school team down in Plantation, Florida. Meet Sony Michael and Isaiah McKenzie: the former rushed for 155 yards and 3 TDs, and the latter ran a punt back 52 yards into the Troy end zone.

Yes, Troy is a pretty bad football team (their record stands at 0-4 with other losses to UAB, Duke, and Abaliene Christian). But seeing Georgia with freshman stars in addition to their upperclassmen talent should put Georgia squarely on the mind of all Tennessee fans.

How about you?

Should Tennessee be playing Appalachian State?

It was reported today that Appalachian State will be coming to Knoxville to play the Vols on September 3, 2016.

This is a topic that we here at VITF have discussed before multiple times: Tennessee’s non-conference foes. I have always been against Div I schools playing lower division opponents (OK, we’re now talking FBS and FCS). And I’m sure most Michigan fans would agree with me.

So, normally, I would not be happy with this recently announced schedule addition.

But now it’s OK with me, because in 2013, the football Mountaineers began a 2-year transition to the FBS, with FBS bowl eligibility beginning in 2015. What a way for Appalachian State to begin the second season of their new status as a member of the top echelon — with a trip to Knoxville and a big huge pile of cash as a reward.

And, being a former ASU student myself (just a year before moving up to the big time), I’m thrilled that the folks in Boone will be making the trip over the Smokies.

Maybe the UTAD should legalize pot for the away section on that game day just to make the Appy crazies feel at home!

But I digress… What do you think?

What did we learn from Saturday night in Norman?

Oklahoma 34 Tennessee 10

Saturday September 13, 2014 / Memorial Stadium (Norman) /  85,622

*******

UT vs OUSpeed kills. This used to be an SEC mantra because the conference OWNED this aspect of football. But it’s everywhere, on both sides of the ball. “They can’t match our speed” is a long forgotten boast of the South.

Continuous defensive pressure wins games. The Sooners’ defensive front seven completely suffocated Tennessee’s hopes of doing practically anything with the ball. Combine that with size and deceptive looks and you have a recipe of how to get to the post-season playoff.

You don’t need piped in music to make a great college football atmosphere. I’ve been to many games in Norman. It’s not as loud as Neyland on its best day, but it always was an exciting venue. The OU band plays nice little hooks that are fast-paced snippets of energy. Tennessee is going in the wrong direction on this issue. The Pride of the Southland enabled this turn of direction because of their slow-paced, boring choices of sound.

Tennessee finally has a bona fide leader in Justin Worley. The guy was pressured all night long and took an amazing amount of physical punishment. But he blamed no one and kept on believing that his teammates could win. Seemingly out of it with 11:20 left in the game, Worley and his Vols were a tipped pass away from making it really interesting.

Cam Sutton is your next Volunteer on an All-American team. His Twitter handle is “Orange Swarm.” For good reason.

These are not your Dooley’s Vols. This group of players and their coaches are too legit to quit. No slumped shoulders. No sitting off by yourself (e.g., Tyler Bray). A lot of effort, everywhere all the time. Fight Vols fight with all your might / For the Orange and White / Never falter, never yield / …

The future is bright, but… Tennessee gained a lot of respect with their effort in the nighttime den of perhaps one of the best three or four teams in the land. But it’s still about baby steps. We are four wins away from a bowl game. The question is where they will and can come from. Vanderbilt and Chattanooga are a given. That leaves two to go. Notice I didn’t include Kentucky (see Saturday night in Florida). The season hinges on two home games: Florida and Missouri. Barring key injuries, it’s better than 50-50 that we are playing post-season football.

Give me your thoughts.

Want some reading material while waiting for Saturday night’s kickoff?

Tennessee vs Oklahoma 1939 Orange Bowl Program CoverIt was January 1939. The world was crawling back from an economic depression and also headed toward war. Meanwhile, a fledgling college football bowl (only its fifth) was trying to make its mark on the nation’s consciousness and compete with the big bowls such as the Rose. The Orange Bowl succeeded because of the Tennessee-Oklahoma clash in 1939. It was a classic, rough and tumble affair involving two of the nation’s unbeaten teams.

Here are links to three accounts of that famous bowl game, won by the Vols 17-0 and making “Tennessee Vols” a national brand of great college football.

A recent article from Outkick the Coverage.

A detailed game summary from SoonerStats.

A Pittsburgh newspaper article from AP.

Enjoy.

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