By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
I’m not the most prolific of Tweeters.
In fact, after 14 years on TwitterX, I have less than 300 followers. I’m okay with that. In fact, on January 14, 2022 I did something that limited my already miniscule reach. I threatened to unfollow all political accounts.
You see, back in the heady days following Georgia’s first Natty, TwitterX was a Red and Black wonderland. Video clips of the season, highlights of the game, montages of the celebration that followed. It almost made up for the 41 years of frustration that Dawgnation had endured (except for the Spurrier years. I’ll never be over that).
So, I *sort of* did what I threatened; I made a separate account for political musings, and left my main account to revel in all things Dawg (and to a lesser extent until the second half of last season, all things DUUUVAL). And lo, it was a glorious Twitter feed for the better part of two years.
The first championship season was followed by a second and topped off with a 65-7 massacre – the biggest bowl win in college football history.
To borrow a phrase from another program that won’t be needing it for a while, it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldawg.
But then the 2023 season started, and someone that hadn’t been around in a while showed up at the tailgate – Negative Nancy.
I don’t have to tell you that the back-to-back defending champs have suffered slow starts in their first few matchups. It’s well documented, no more vociferously so than Dawg fans themselves. You would think that we hadn’t won a game, that the sky was falling, or worse – it was the Jim Donnan years again.
Of course, the brunt of the armchair quarterbacking is heaped upon Kirby’s long time friend and teammate, returning OC Mike Bobo.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve read the words “fire Bobo” in the last month, I’d be able to buy season tickets. Everyone and their brother is suddenly a world class evaluator of college talent and is ready to give Bobo the heave-ho.
Two words to that; Just Stop.
Maybe it’s because the season ended last year on a blow out, maybe it’s because we’ve lifted Stetson Bennett into the highest levels of DGD status (rightfully so, but that’s not the point right now). Or maybe – just maybe – it’s because Dawg people have really short memories.
Todd Monken’s offense last year, though prolific, wasn’t always firing on all cylinders.
The “closer than it should have been” Kent State game and the “almost a road loss to a team that shouldn’t even be in the SEC” Missouri game come to mind.
Need I also remind you of the high octane offensive juggernaut that brought us the 16-6 victory over Kentucky?
In short, when it worked it worked, but it wasn’t always a blow out.
Coach Smart had to point out a few weeks ago that the offensive system this year is the same as last year. Bobo hasn’t reinvented anything.
The numbers back this up. Run plays vs. pass plays, play action, play action on 1st Down, throws of 20+ yards, Almost every offensive metric is within a few percentage points from last year to this. Seriously, it’s the same dang offense, people!
Granted, there have always occasionally been serious head scratchers of calls from Coach Bobo- that disastrous pass play on 1st & goal from the 5 comes to mind – but all in all, Mike Bobo was not the reason why the Coach Mark Richt era didn’t break the championship drought.
His offense, more seasons than not, produced 40+ points per game averages, but were paired up with lackluster if not disastrous defensive squads.
Bottom line, Kirby trusts him, ergo I trust him. Same thing with the Stet/JT controversy from two years ago. My response is the same; Let Kirby cook.
And as far as the slow starts this year, there’s a viral GIF of Kirby out there where he’s telling a player to “calm the fluff down” or something like that. I’m not good at lip reading. Go look that up next time we have to punt in the first half.
Now can we please talk about something else? As long as it’s not Coach Prime, that is…
By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
For a brief, fleeting, shining moment in 2022, the Tennessee Volunteers were on top of the world.
They were undefeated and had big wins over LSU and Alabama. They were the #1 team according to the CFB Championship committee.
Their reign of the top spot in college football lasted less than a week.
All in all, the ’22 season set expectations pretty high for the ’23 season, and it’s probably going to fall short.
Couple that with the NCAA sanctions after the Jeremy Pruitt debacle and it looks like it might be a tough road ahead for the Volunteers.
With Hendon Hooker off to the NFL as part of what I believe will be one of the most underwhelming QB classes of the last 20 years (certain exceptions apply), the QB position for the upcoming campaign is quite possibly the biggest question mark of the season.
Joe Milton gets handed the keys to the offense after handing them off to Hooker due to injury in 2021. He has the physical tools and intangibles, but if the sixth-year signal caller has a hard time firing up the offense, don’t be surprised if there are calls for Nico Iamaleava between non-stop choruses of Rocky Top. The 6-6, 205-pound SoCal product comes as touted as they come.
Backs and receivers should be fine as well. Jaylen Wright is back to try to improve over his 875-yard campaign from last year, and Samson and Small fill out the rotation.
Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton will more than likely be the leading receivers, but I’m rooting for the Key and Peele favorite name on the squad; Squirrel White. How can you not root for a kid with that name?
The problems are going to come from the O-Line and defensive backfield.
Josh Heupel’s staff is moving many of last year’s linemen around, and the secondary lost a lot of talent in the offseason.
Both are problematic and will probably wind up being the reasons why this year’s orange & white winds up underwhelming Rocky Top Nation.
Here’s how I see the week-to-week breaking down.
WEEK 1 – Vs. VIRGINIA (at Nashville) – Heupel’s squad has done well in national spotlight games not held in Athens. Expect similar results against the Cavaliers. Vols start with a W, 28-13.
WEEK 2 – vs. AUSTIN PEAY – At this point of the season, I’m running out of witticisms for cupcake games. Just be confident in UT walloping AP bigly, we’ll say 49-9.
WEEK 3 – @ FLORIDA – Here’s where it gets ugly. Tennessee hasn’t won in The Swamp in 20 years. Make it 21 in a row for the Gators, 24-14.
WEEK 4 – vs. UTSA – See the Austin Peay comment. Another whuppin’ handed out by the orange & white, 45-13.
WEEK 5 – vs. SOUTH CAROLINA – I could see this one going either way to be honest, but I think Beamer Ball takes one in a high-scoring matchup. Vols fall in OT 41-38.
WEEK 6 – vs. TEXAS A&M – I have just as much faith in Beamer Ball as I do mistrust of horse-tranquilizer poster boy Jimbo Fisher. The much heralded breakthrough year for the Aggies takes a setback with a 31-21 Tennessee victory.
WEEK 7 – @ ALABAMA – I REALLY want to pick UT to make it two in a row against Saban here, but I just can’t. Check back with me after the Florida game & I may change my mind. Vols fall 35-17.
WEEK 8 – @ KENTUCKY – This is where the wheels really come off the season. Cats let ‘er rip at home and send Heupel and company back to Knoxville with a 38-13 embarrassment.
WEEK 9 – vs. UCONN – Nothing cures a two game losing streak quite like an AAC matchup. A much needed win for the Vols, 35-10.
WEEK 10 – @ MISSOURI – The midwestern Tigers put up a fight, but UT pulls it out, 24-17.
WEEK 11 – vs. GEORGIA – If I get two out of the four losses wrong and Rocky Top comes into this still in contention for second in the East, this might be a signature win for the Vols. I don’t think I will, though. The back-to-back champs take it easily 42-21.
WEEK 12 – vs. VANDERBILT – At least they end the year against Vandy, and Vandy is still Vandy. UT wraps up the season with another W, 35-18.
FINAL PREDICTION: 7-5, 4th place in SEC East.