Sunday, September 30, 2012

0 Managing Your Expectations

By Kenny Howell

No one likes to lose. Plain and simple.

But there are times when moral victories are OK. You don't necessarily need to be happy about it, but at least get yourself to indifference.

Take Tennessee's game yesterday with Georgia. Being a Tennessee fan, did I want the Vols to lose? No. Did I ever think they were going to win? No to that as well.

It is something that I have come to grips with. There was a point in time when Tennessee had Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry and future All-American Travis Stephens lining up in the backfield with Peyton Manning at quarterback and Peerless Price at receiver. Other NFL players on that 1997 team were Chad Clifton, Shawn Bryson, Shaun Ellis, Terry Fair, Dwayne Goodrich, Deon Grant, Leonard Little, David Martin, Marcus Nash, Billy Ratliff, Raynoch Thompson, Darwin Walker, Al Wilson and Cedrick Wilson.

That team, with all that talent, lost two games, including getting blown out in Orange Bowl against Nebraska, 42-17. And that is when the SEC had 2-4 teams that could play elite football. Now, we have 4-6 every year.

Looking at this year's team, there are few sure things as far as NFL players. Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarelle Patterson and A.J. Johnson should get a chance. Other than that, you got some guys that can work their way into the fold, but no sure things.

So losing to a No. 5 Georgia team at their place is not that demoralizing. Especially since you worked yourself into a position to win with much less talent on the field. Does it suck that you had a chance and you came up short? Absolutely. But the loss does show that you have improved and you are moving toward being able to beat those types of teams in the future.

With the running game coming together the past two weeks, UT does seem to have their offense fully rounded. 44 points against a good Georgia defense, with maybe the best defensive player in the country is a big deal. It's the 51 they scored that is troubling.

The Vols seem to be able to handle runs up the middle fairly well. Daniel McCullers is a tough guy to get around, and the defense seems to bottle up runners. It's the outside that we have trouble with, which Georgia knew and exploited for a ton of yards. The biggest thing that sticks out is that how weak the Vols are in the secondary. Part of is that they are put in bad situations on both the run and the pass by the playcalling, but you still got to make plays when it's your opportunity.

The transition to the 3-4 is a big deal. Both Alabama and Georgia had around .500 seasons when they switched to the new defense. So it's hard to expect Tennessee, which probably had less talent than those teams at the time of their transition, to do much better than that.

In just under two weeks from now, Tennessee takes on Mississippi State. This is the one you need to have because you can win it. Later, when you play Missouri, that is also the time get the win. If you can upset a South Carolina or Alabama, it would be huge, but you can't bank on that. Just win the ones you can, and keep building back to the Tennessee we once knew.

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