So back in the day when I was a sportscaster at the Knoxville ABC affiliate, I did web postings each week about the upcoming Tennessee game and let me tell you … they were popular.
It’s been a number of years, but if memory serves correctly, my “Fearless Predictions” got one billion page views per week … give or take one billion.
Now that I’m writing for GN, I thought I’d bring that it back each week, starting with the Georgia Tech-Tennessee season-opener on Monday night.
Let’s get this party started.
Tennessee gets a break with the venue. Atlanta decided to spend $1.6 billion on a new football stadium while the old football place still was more than acceptable. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is beautiful and state-of-the-art, but the big news for the Vols is that they no longer will play in that house of horrors known as the Georgia Dome: Between 2001 and 2011, the Vols lost five consecutive times in that building (three SEC title games, two Peach/Chick-fil-A bowls). The 2001 SEC title-game loss to LSU cost Tennessee a spot in the national title game against Miami in the Rose Bowl. The Vols haven’t been close to that lofty status since.
Perhaps the Vols will make some positive memories in the new stadium starting Monday night.
Neither team has announced its starting quarterback; I always enjoy how coaches try to guard personnel decisions like they have the nuclear codes. Tennessee coach Butch Jones is choosing between Quinten Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano, while Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has four options.
The Vols got a break when Johnson dismissed running back Dedrick Mills a couple of weeks ago for the ever-popular and all-encompassing “violation of athletic department rules.” Mills rushed for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
The Yellow Jackets are the opposite of their fellow Atlanta football friends (the Falcons) in that they will run the darn ball in the second half of a big game. Actually, Georgia Tech will run the darn ball just about all the time with that triple-option attack, something the Vols don’t see much. This puts a lot of pressure on Tennessee’s defensive line and linebackers.
Jonathan Kongbo, Kyle Phillips and Darrell Taylor need to know their assignments at end and stick to them. Never is that more challenging than against a team that uses so much misdirection.
Star Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. is out for the season. That means everyone’s favorite scapegoat, Colton Jumper, will see the field a great deal in Atlanta. Jumper has played in every game for the Vols the past two seasons. Considering how many injuries the defense played through in 2016, that consistency should be applauded. Jumper will need to play close to Kirkland’s level for the Vols’ defense to have a good night.
Despite the game being played a Tiger Woods drive (2000, not 2017, obviously) from Georgia Tech’s campus, the fan support likely will be evenly distributed. Even in the darkest times of the Derek Dooley era, Tennessee fans traveled, and this is an easy drive down Interstate-75.
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