Relax. Deep breaths, Johnny Bulldogs Fan and Tommy Mocs Supporter. Deep breaths.
The biggest adjustments for almost every football team on almost every level come between the first and second games of a season. Those second games are today. Those adjustments? Well, they need to be markedly noticeable.
For the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and for Georgia, that is the hope. For University of Tennessee fans, who watched as the Volunteers manhandled an undermanned foe last week with a level of efficiency that offered the promise and potential of brighter days, any improvement from the near flawless opener will be welcomed with the hopeful gaze of a 6-year-old on his birthday.
We all know UTC's performance last week was bad on almost every level. We also believe it was an isolated incident that will be solved today. We also believe that UT-Martin was better than we expected.
The No. 1 factor in the Thursday night debacle for UTC was an offseason of the Mocs hearing how good they are. That is a drastic and clear problem for college football teams. In fact, other than his acumen as a recruiter, Alabama coach Nick Saban's best attribute is that he can keep a highly successful program hungry and focused despite being highly successful.
As for the Mocs, here's saying not many folks have been bending their ears about how good they are the last 10 days. That motivation will serve them well today against Georgia State.
For Georgia, a botched snap on a chip-shot field-goal try combined with a few hundred defensive breakdowns equaled a 38-35 loss to a Clemson team that has real national championship aspirations. Certainly Georgia had similar dreams before the season, and one loss on the road against a top-10 foe does not end those goals. An 0-2 start, however, would derail that dream and would put Georgia on the outside looking in at the SEC East race after its conference opener.
Difficult circumstances, to be sure, but these Bulldogs are faced with the a must-have moment 10 days into the season. Noticeable improvements on defense are a must, and the addition of Josh Harvey-Clemons to the secondary is noticeable and an improvement.
With all the talk and all the buzz, you'd think Western Kentucky's Hilltoppers were coming to Knoxville ranked No. 6 in the country with a Heisman candidate and two All-Americans. They beat a Kentucky team that will be lucky to win four games.
Are they dangerous? Certainly they are, because they have a coach who is among the biggest in-game difference makers in college football and primarily because this Tennessee roster has been Dooleyed to the point that losing Devrin Young has forced most of East Tennessee to wring their hands to the point that raw knuckles have become an epidemic from Bledsoe to Blount County.
That said, all of the talk and the consternation start to stall when you look to the folks who are putting their livelihood on the line. Vegas has WKU as a two-touchdown underdog -- a line that has not budged this week. If you were forced to pick this one, you'd be hard-pressed not to go with the Hilltoppers and the points, but the confidence is lacking.
In fact, if the Vols improve as much from the opener to week two as we expect the Mocs and Bulldogs to, maybe the mood of the UT fan base will continue to tilt upward. Yes, a weekly dose of Dooley can cause even the most Orange-dyed supporter to expect the worst, but when does that pessimism pass?
Here's saying it's today. Here's saying that improvement will be noticed and enjoyed and embraced.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
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