I have nothing terribly insightful, ingenious, inventive, or perhaps even interesting to say about Saturday’s game with Cincinnati.
But, that has never stopped me from blathering on about what I think. So, here goes…
The prevailing, conventional wisdom about this matchup seems to be that it could become a track meet.
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
With the likes of Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter, I’m willing to watch a pinballesque scoreboard with bells chiming and lights flashing in an old fashioned shootout.
It would be infinitely more entertaining than some games I’ve seen over the past few seasons.
I mean, do you really want to watch our running game try off-tackle repeatedly?
Tyler Bray hasn’t yet started against top quality competition in his young career. Last week was Tyler’s sixth start as a Vol: Memphis, Ole Miss, Vandy, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Montana. He’s averaged 306 passing yards per these six games for a 5-1 record.
It’s all one big overture for upcoming matchups with Florida, Alabama, and LSU (you can add Georgia and South Carolina to the mix as well, but I’d rather not until further evidence justifies it). Cincinnati is Tyler’s last dress rehearsal before prime time.
Perhaps it is my hopeful imagination, but last week showed me something that looked like subtle but significant improvement in Tyler’s game. He’s more mature in his actions (the bullshit macho mannerisms have vanished). His arm appears stronger. He is relying more on accuracy than heaving it up for his superior athletes to win possession. His game management is ahead of his sophomore standing.
In baseball, they talk of pitchers that have command of their pitches – they are those that can throw a big hook for a strike with a 3-2 count and the bases loaded as easily as a four-seam fastball over the black with a 3-0 count, bases empty, and the batter taking all the way.
Tyler Bray appears to be gaining command of his play.
And this means that for all games except against elite competition, he has the ability to carry his team on his back.
He certainly has the receivers to assist him, and this year’s defense appears to be able to keep things from getting out of hand.
He’s also becoming adept at escaping disaster when his young OL breaks down.
If Tyler Bray brings his A game Saturday (I can assure you this team is not looking ahead to Florida), it will be a fairly comfortable win. And if the squad on both sides of the ball can maintain focus and intensity for 60 minutes, instead of the mere half hour they achieved last week, it won’t be close.
I believe both will happen on Shields-Watkins Field this weekend.
I really do.
Tennessee 41 Cincinnati 14