Randy Smith: Thinking About College Football

Friday, June 16, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
As the countdown continues until college football kicks off in a few months, fans have had their satiable appetites appeased by the steady stream of annual college football pre-season magazines on the shelves. I bought one this week. I usually buy at least three of them but I decided to buy more later when I go to the beach next month. This time last year, Tennessee was mentioned prominently as one of the top teams in the country. They were picked to win the SEC East, and some publications had listed them as dark horse contenders for the College Football Playoffs. A lot of folks, including yours truly, bought it hook line and sinker.

I should have known the Vols were not as good as everyone was saying.
Sure they had talent, several veterans returning from a 9-4 squad in 2015, and a hungry fan base that was starved for a trip back to the good ole days of the late 1990s and early 2000s. That's when Tennessee was a national power and a contender for the SEC title every season. This year, that same hungry fan base is cautiously optimistic about the Big Orange Future. A lot of them say that 9-4 won't cut it three straight seasons, but to be fair and totally honest, I would take 9-4 again right now. I still haven't decided for sure where I believe the Volunteers will fall in the SEC East pecking order, but today I decided to report on what Lindy's Southeastern 2017 preview has to say.

Most of it is not that flattering. Lindy's does pick Tennessee to finish third in the East, behind Georgia and Florida. The Vols beat both those teams last season but were upended by Texas A&M in overtime, and lost to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Did I also mention that UT was throttled by Alabama 49-10? Had the Vols simply won over the Gamecocks or the Commodores, they would have had the opportunity to get throttled a second time by 'Bama in the SEC Championship Game.

Coach Butch Jones' seat is as hot as anyone's in college football. Even though I believe that 9-4 will get him another season in Knoxville, 6-6 or even 7-5 will get him fired - especially if his team continues to blow leads or gets behind early in games and has to fight from behind to win. Those two scenarios have been very prominent in each of the last two seasons. In 2015, the Vols would jump in front and then blow a big lead leading to key losses. (Florida especially comes to mind) Last year, it was the opposite. The Vols would fall behind and have to play catch up most of the time. In their season opener against Appalachian State, they needed overtime to beat the Mountaineers. Same thing a week later against Virginia Tech in Bristol, and against Florida at home, they trailed by double digits before beating the Gators.

I know Butch Jones has recruited well at Tennessee but check out these comments from an anonymous rival coach in the SEC. " Tennessee hasn't won 10 games since 2007. No way they should go 10 years at Tennessee and not win 10-11 games. No way. That's an indictment on the coaches, the school the president. You have the resources, the fan passion, the stadium and the financial commitment. "

I spent some time trying to figure out who may have said that, but every team preview has an opposing coaches' view. Maybe 2017 will be a better year for Tennessee. Maybe since expectations are not nearly as high as last season, they may be able to sneak up on a couple of teams they shouldn't beat. It won't take long to find out just how good this team is. They open with a very good Georgia Tech team in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend. A loss in that game could be a signal that things are not okay and fans should get ready for a big let down. I certainly hope that is not the case.     

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.



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