Could Tennessee’s ‘defining moment’ come against UGA?

Butch Jones at the podium, helmet at the ready. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Butch Jones at the podium, helmet at the ready. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Butch Jones at the podium, helmet at the ready. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Hoover, Ala. — I’m on the record as picking Tennessee to win the SEC East. (Yes, over Georgia, which will surely be the choice of those gathered here for SEC Media Days.) I confess that much of my rationale can be condensed to three words.

Process of elimination.

I don’t think this will be one of Mark Richt’s vintage teams. I see South Carolina as in decline. I don’t believe Florida is ready to win big in Year 1 under Jim McElwain. I can’t imagine Missouri will win the division. That pretty much leaves Tennessee.

A lot of SEC media types roll their eyes when Butch Jones’ name is mentioned. They think he’s a coach bigger on bromides and boilerplate than on true inspiration. I’ll concede that he comes across as a corporate type, but most football coaches do. (That’s why we love Steve Spurrier. He doesn’t.) And I have to say that he inherited a job where a fly-by-night approach — here we invoke the name of Lane Kiffin — had left the Big Orange in disarray.

Tennessee went 7-6 against a brutal schedule last season. In his remarks here, Jones took a gentle jab at Spurrier, who earlier in the day suggested the Vols had gotten giddy over winning the TaxSlayer Bowl. (Though Spurrier conceded that South Carolina had itself been tickled to win the Independence Bowl and likewise finish 7-6.)

“Contrary to reports, there were no backflips,” Jones said. “There were no somersaults.”

Then this: “You’re either an overachiever or an underachiever. Last year’s team overachieved. We were the youngest team in college football.”

The good thing about young teams is that they get older. Less clear is whether they’ll get better. Tennessee has recruited well enough Jones to make us think this might be an aggregation ready to take a great leap forward. But how is coach to know when a promising team is poised to become a proven one?

“There has to come a defining moment,” Jones said, “when everything you’ve been preaching and preaching comes to fruition.”

That moment might come Sept. 12, when Oklahoma enters Neyland Stadium, but the Sooners are coming off a five-loss season and aren’t an SEC team. It might come two weeks later in the Swamp, but Florida doesn’t figure to be ranked. It might come the next week against Arkansas, but the Hogs were themselves 7-6 last season.

No, if you’re looking the first real moment for Tennessee to establish its bona fides, that would come Oct. 10: The presumptive SEC East favorite versus the Vols in the massive stadium on the banks of the Tennessee River.

“There needs to be tangible evidence,” Jones said. “You always at some point in time need a defining moment.”

Beating Georgia on Oct. 10 would supply such evidence. Losing to Georgia would tell us that Jones’ rebuilding isn’t nearly complete.

From earlier Tuesday: The great Spurrier is surely nearing an end.

From Monday: Auburn-Louisville — the all-time Atlanta hate game.

From earlier Monday: Auburn banks on a big QB with a big arm.

Reader Comments 3

156 comments
hot13dog
hot13dog

If UGA looses to Bama and Tenn back to back it will be a very LONG SEASON!!!!

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

@hot13dog

Almost zero chance of that happening.  Bama and Tennessee both will struggle to score more than 20 points against our defense.

hot13dog
hot13dog

If Butch does not beat UGA at home this year he is in big trouble!!!!!

KingHusseinObama
KingHusseinObama

"I can’t imagine Missouri will win the division"

***

Why, they win the SEC least 67% of the time?!?

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

So many Richt apologists are predicting a letdown after Bama. What does that say about Saint Mark's ability to prepare the team? Imagine if we played in the west and had Bama every year rather than SCe, LSU rather than UT, Ole Miss rather the Vandy, and State rather than KY.


What we would have is a team that is blessed with talent, resources, and a recruiting mecca that is the envy of virtually every coach in D1 and yet would be hard pressed to crack the Top 25. 


There is one reason that the Dawgs compete for 10 win seasons (when six wins are handed to them on a silver platter) and Belk, Outback, Gator, and Capital One bowls rather than major bowls and shots at SEC and NCs. Need I say what that reason is?

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

@LADawg

Richt is a very, very good coach.  Do you have any idea how many kids come to Georgia that would otherwise have gone to Alabama, Florida, FSU, Auburn and most recently, Ohio State?  A lot do and it's because of Richt.  Richt has won everything but the NC and that is not all his fault.  We've had some bad luck with injuries during a lot of those seasons. Get a clue.  Other teams want to win too.  Winning is hard.  And Richt has done it better than any other coach in Georgia history.

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

@GTBob @bigmacondawg

McGarity gets paid the big bucks and has been given big responsibility for understanding what irrational fans cannot understand.

GTBob
GTBob

@bigmacondawg I wonder if that is what Richt says when he meets with McGarity on his performance. "Hey man, winning is hard. Those other teams are trying to win too."

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@bigmacondawg If you delete the "very, very" in your post, I'm agreeing with you. His teams' records during the past nine years collectively do not justify even one "very."

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @LADawg Do you have any idea how many kids don't come to Georgia because they want to play for championships...not of the Belk Bowl, Gator, Liberty,Capital One, etc. variety. Championships are not won by "...very, very..."good coaches who routinely give games away with their inability to manage games and who cannot get their team ready to play in big games two weeks in a row. 


Imagine if Bama or LSU were in the east. They would be fixtures in the SEC championship game and major bowls. Those two teams have nothing that the Dawgs don't have...except a championship quality HC. In fact, Alabama and Louisiana COMBINED don't produce the D1 prospects that Richt has in his own back yard. That's reality, my friend!

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

@LADawg @bigmacondawg @GTBob

We don't have any more money, any better facilities or any better recruits than do Texas or Florida.  How would you like to be a Gator fan or a Longhorn now?

I'm not making excuses for the man.  It's not unreasonable to think we COULD win a NC (we will).  but we play in the toughest league in the country.

GTBob
GTBob

@bigmacondawg Since the last time Richt made it to a major bowl game Texas and Florida both have made multiple major bowl games and both have played in a national championship. And they still fired coaches for underperforming. This should open your eyes a little to expectations at UGA vs expectations at other schools.

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @LADawg That's not for me to say. However, 15 years of seeing the Dawgs spill their guts on the field only to have Richt mismanage the game and rip defeat from the jaws of victory and/or not have the team ready to play and beat inferior opponents is enough. 


I have to think that there would be a multitude of great coaches that would love to come to UGA in the heart of a recruiting mecca and with superb facilities were it not for "Ten Wins is Good Enough" McGarity. I have no more reason to have faith in that man than I do Richt. You may be correct, with McGarity as AD, Richt may be the best we can do.

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

@GTBob @bigmacondawg

'08 and '09

Florida and Texas have been down for a long time.  And their hiring and firing has landed them in an unstable spin.  It may be 5-10 years before either of them are where we are now.

Our problem has been defense.  And it's been fixed.

GTBob
GTBob

@bigmacondawg Their hiring and firing? Muschamp took over for Meyer who left on his own. Charlie Strong took over for Mack Brown who coached a little too long after a nice career. Neither one of those places is in an unstable spin and both places have taken action to improve their programs. UGA just sits and enjoys the same mediocrity year after year without any plan for ever improving other than letting Richt churn through a few more assistants every few years.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@LADawg

Co-sign on McGarity--a gator-trained coward whose first mission at UGA was to follow fla's example by softening the team's OOC football schedule.

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @LADawg @GTBob Excuse me if I bust your bubble, but UGA is very much on par with Texas and Florida when it comes to money, facilities, and all other resources required to put a championship football team on the field. Plus, we don't have to split our in-state recruits with 3+ other major in-state programs. Our biggest problem, other than our AD and HC, is the number of top recruits who leave the state to play for championships rather than minor bowl games.

If we played in the west an argument could be made for playing "...in the toughest league in the country." But, with yearly meetings with the likes of SCe, TN, Mizzou, Vandy, and KY from the east along with the three annual cupcakes and Tech, we should be asking ourselves, "What coach couldn't win 10 games with that schedule and the resources available at UGA?"

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @LADawg I hope you're correct. We were three losses that can be laid directly at the feet of CMR last year with Hutson Mason at QB. We should be no worse at QB this year and the rest of the team is even more talented. The wildcard is that on game days Richt comes down from his ivory tower, tunes his headset to the local Christian music station, and is clueless at crunch time in close games. 


We have to hope that at some point the Dawgs will be so exceptionally talented that they will overwhelm every team on the schedule in every phase of the game so that not even Richt can mess it up. Then we will have our NC!

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @LADawg Sure I do. It was Donnan's recruits who took the Dawgs to the best season in Richt's tenure and one of the two SEC championships that the Disneys like to crow about. 


The demographics of the State of Georgia have changed dramatically in the last 20 to 25 years. Metro Atlanta alone produces more D1 prospects than the entire state produced in the '80s and '90s. Comparing Goff and Donnan to all that is available to Richt is apples and oranges.

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @GTBob Is it irrational that during Richt's tenure, many, maybe hundreds of Georgia players have won NCs but none with UGA? Is it irrational that UGA is one of the richest athletic associations in the country but does not produce trips to major bowls, much less championships? Is it irrational that during Richt's tenure that championships have been won by schools representing all of the top 5 recruiting states except for Georgia, of which UGA is the flagship institution?


OR, is it irrational to say that with all the resources available to Richt, both recruiting and facilities, that, "Winning is hard." and use that as reason to excuse losses year in and year out to inferior teams?

1942MNC
1942MNC

" Tennessee went 7-6 against a brutal schedule last season." that sentence made me laugh.  Have you seen the records of the 7 teams they beat last year?  Look them up and have yourself a good laugh too. If that was over achieving UT still has a long way to go.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@1942MNC I know you couldn't be accusing someone else of Under achieving?

GTBob
GTBob

Poor Missouri. They never get any of the over hype that schools like Auburn, Tennessee, and UGA get. They just keep winning the division and laughing at those who can't imagine they could win it.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@GTBob  Bill King put together a little Disney ranking of Georgia's top games for the upcoming season and Mizzou was an afterthought that barely even got a mention.  Never mind that they are the two time defending SEC East Champ.  Never mind that they've already beaten us in Athens in their first trip there.  The Disneys are talking up the Bama game like we've arrived.  Arrived where I have no idea.  The only place we've arrived is our local Belk store for a trophy presentation.


1,000% real Georgia fan here.  Red and black through and through.  I've just never seen our fan base in such a complacent and delusional state before ever.  It's really unbelievable to me.   

GTBob
GTBob

@bigmacondawg The sporting news has him ranked 26th. I think that is a little high but its much more reasonable than pretending he is in the top 10 after not making a major bowl game in the last 7 years.

ShootinTheHooch
ShootinTheHooch

@bigmacondawg @LADawg @dawg fan @GTBob Crow on about top 10 this and top 10 that, regardless if it's true or not. The Dawgs finished in the top 10 last year when Richt personally ripped defeat from the jaws of victory with his mismanagement of the SC and Tech games. By his players' own admission ("We underestimated Florida.") he didn't effectively prepare the team for the Gators which resulted in an embarrassment. Those losses were the difference between the Belk Bowl and a possible SEC championship or better for the Dawgs! And that is with Hutson at QB for God's sake!

You Disney's are McGarity's and Richt's kind of fans! Crow about Top 10, Top 15 or whatever and totally ignore the fact that everything at UGA is primed for real championships, not just minor bowls.
Well, not everything is primed, we've still got "10 Wins is Good Enough' and Saint Mark!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@dawg fan: "Mizzou was an afterthought that barely even got a mention . . . Never mind that they've already beaten us in Athens in their first trip there."

________________________

Never mind that you conveniently forgot to mention UGA's W-L record vs Mizzou since they joined the SEC.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@DawgNole I didn't mention it because nobody freaking cares.  We've got more talent on our scout team than they've got on their entire team.  I see where you conveniently forget to mention that gargantuan talent differential. 


Oh whoopee we're 2-1 against freaking Mizzou.  Let's put Coach Squib in the Hall of Fame immediately.

dawg fan
dawg fan

Remember when we used to talk about SEC and national titles around here?  Now it's nothing but SEC East.  What in the world happened?  Weren't we supposed to "blow the lid off?"  Dave Van Halanger once said that "the sky was the limit" for Georgia football, but now we seem happy winning what is arguably one of the weakest divisions in all of college football at the moment.  Ask the Indiana freaking Hoosiers how tough they think the SEC East is.  Give me a break.  I'm sorry but all this focus on the SEC East is ridiculous.  Winning the SEC East won't mean jack diddly squat if we show up to the SECCG and get our brains beat in by a team that is better prepared than we are.  I could absolutely care less about the SEC East unless it's a stepping stone to something else.  Winning the SEC East should be a foregone conclusion. 


Mark Richt choked away the weakest SEC East EVER last year with a senior QB, a MONSTER running game that included two stud RBs and a defense that ranked in the Top 20 nationally in both total and scoring defense.  And this with a schedule that did not include any of the top teams from the SEC West. 


You've got to be sniffing some major glue to think our underachieving choke artist coach is going to get it done this year.   

Truth5678
Truth5678

Easy Mark, you know how much UGA fans value pre-season hype. Cause that's all they ever win. 

DawginLex
DawginLex

@Truth5678 Get some new material son

Is that all you have?

Dig deeper into that TROLL bag

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@DawginLex "TROLL" is what you have as a retort? Get new material? Pot, meet kettle. 

kerryb
kerryb

The ONLY way TN will beat UGA is the fact that UGA will be coming off a big game at home against Bama the week before.  If UGA wins that game then they will be on a high and primed for a let down.  I personally don't see this team doing this this year.  If the QB spot gets worked out this could be one of the better teams Richt has had at UGA.

hot13dog
hot13dog

@kerryb If UGA beats both of them it will be the biggest day in CMR career!!!

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@hot13dog ...and if that happens, U.Ga. returns to Athens and loses to Missouri.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@SkokieDog @hot13dog 30-0 ring a bell?

We will beat the crap out of Mizzou in Athens again this year

Mizzou will lose at least 3 SEC games in 2015

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DawginLex @Birmingham__Jacket

Remember, BJ is the dimwit who predicted Auburn would score 50-60 pts on UGA last season, that Miss St would dominate Bama, and that GT would take down FSU.

Less than zero credibility.