Swimming with Minnows
UT-Martin comes to town this Saturday.
Who? Right. We’re playing one of our cousins. Baseball? OK. Basketball? Fine. Football? No. There are only 12 games in a regular football season as opposed to baseball and basketball, which play significantly more times during their seasons. Thus, why waste our time playing a family member? Such a question doesn’t apply to schools like Cal (think UCLA).
But the question applies to us, as none of our cousins are worthy opponents. With all respect that is due to UT-Martin’s football program (you are free to determine how much respect that is), we have no business playing them, for they are minnows.
The only thing to be gained by playing a minnow is gaining some decent practice under simulated game situations before we face national powers over the following two weeks. However, the potential downside is horrifying. A bad performance will create a measure of confidence problems with the potential of a long-range ripple effect. A dreadful performance could mean a loss to a Division 1-AA school (now known as the Football Championship Subdivision), which would be much worse on the Richter scale than Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State in 2007 (the Mountaineers were a good football team, as will be Montana, the Vols’s next Div I-AA opponent ).
No school in a major conference should play minnows. I could explore a bevy of rationalizations for this stance, but it comes down to personal preference for me – because schools play only 12 games, I would rather see all schools swing at or above their own weight. Somehow it’s not very becoming – it has a tinge of making the inferior feel incredibly inferior via public humiliation.
Yes, there are moments of shock results (Appalachian at Michigan already mentioned), and they are delicious if you are a neutral or alum of the inferior. But because I have personally witnessed the self-inflicted, program-destroying mayhem when David defeated the Vols as Goliath (North Texas State played the role of David in the mid-1970s) as well as the almost shameful embarrassment from inflicting a scorched-earth policy on an opponent (UT 70 Louisiana-Monroe 3 in 2000), I’d just as soon not schedule such mullet in fear of both sides of the coin.
I don’t limit my opinion to just Division I-AA schools. With no objective criteria other than going through past schedules and choosing based on initial reaction, here is my list of schools that Tennessee had no business playing over the past years since Doug Dickey was named head coach in 1964.2009: Western Kentucky (W 63-7) 2008: Northern Illinois (W 13-7) 2007: Arkansas State (W 48-27) 2002: MTSU (W 26-3) 2000: Louisiana-Monroe (W 70-3) 1990: Pacific (W 55-7) 1989: Akron (W 52-9) 1983: The Citadel (W 45-6) 1981: Wichita State (W 24-21) 1975: North Texas State (L 14-21) 1972: Hawaii (W 34-2) 1971: Santa Barbara (W 48-6) 1969: Tennessee-Chattanooga (W 31-0) 1967: Tampa (W 38-0) 1966: Tennessee-Chattanooga (W 28-10) 1964: Tennessee-Chattanooga (W 10-6)
So, even though it is the new season, I’m not looking forward to Saturday’s ‘clash’ with UT-Martin.
But, it’s a new season, and I’ve already buried Tennessee’s chances for a winning season before the last touches of paint have been applied to Shields Watkins Field for the opener, so I shouldn’t get myself bummed by further introspection of my personal idiosyncrasies related to college football schedules. And, at least for the time being, I’m weary of beating up our AD.
Thus, tomorrow I’ll get back to the original question: Who are UT-Martin?
In the meantime, don’t fry up any minnows or use them as bait down at the pond, stream, or lake. It could give David the benefit of some kind of instant karma. Wait until Sunday.