We arrive at this first Saturday in October looking for reason to believe that the Tennessee-Georgia football game deserves our undivided attention.
We want to believe it will be a tight game, a game that could hinge on a play or two like the all-knowing lines-makers in the sparkling supernova that is Las Vegas portray with a seemingly understated 10.5-point spread.
We want to think that this game -- what once used to be an elimination game in the SEC East race -- will be more than a skip and a bounce for the once-beaten but thrice-tested Bulldogs who have high hopes fueled by a high-octane offense piloted by the highest of overachievers in Aaron Murray. And if you are wondering how a former five-star recruit from Florida such as Murray qualifies as an overachiever, well, by the end of the first half today, Murray will be the SEC's all-time leader in passing yardage. And if you pegged Murray to rewrite the SEC record books when he arrived in Athens five years ago, well, please send me your best guess on the PowerBall numbers at your earliest convenience.
Murray's record-setting final season in Red and Black aside, this Georgia team is hard to handle. The Bulldogs have dropped no fewer than 28 points on each of their last 10 foes, a collection of opponents that include ranked teams Alabama, Nebraska, Clemson, South Carolina and LSU.
Tennessee is not ranked. Has not been since a brief appearance in September of last year before the Florida game. Tennessee, in truth, has not been worthy of being ranked since beating Georgia in 2009, the year of the dark one, Lord Lane VolderKiffin, who has been vanquished from the realm and exposed for what Al Davis proclaimed him to be.
Still, the year of Kiffin -- and that will be the last mention of him since I'm pretty sure that not unlike "Beetlejuice," if you say his name three times, he'll magically appear -- was the last time the Volunteers trumped a ranked foe. The 2009 bunch did it twice, beating Georgia with authority and topping South Carolina in black jerseys.
So dare we believe this bunch has the ability to derail Georgia's rise? Dare we believe that Verne and Gary will get through an SEC telecast without butchering Butch Jones (for some reason they think Butch Davis coaches the Vols) or maligning Aaron Murray (here's hoping the misaligned yet valiant Verne wonders if "Georgia quarterback Eric Murphy is related to Eddie Murphy or Dale Murphy"). Dare we stretch our expectations to think this is Tennessee's time to show us that the Big Orange is big, even in smokey gray uniforms.
Ah, expectations. Las Vegas expects this to be closer than most. But as expectations become revelations, the translation between losing and longing can become as blurred as a kindergartener's coloring book.
Consider the following:
• We expected the Vols to be 3-2 this morning, but we expected the three to be a little more impressive and the two to be a little more competitive.
• We expected Georgia to be about where it is, considering the only thing rougher in September than the Bulldogs' schedule is Hurricane season.
• We expected the UTC Mocs to be better, a combination of unclear absences and all-too-familiar big-game slips making the Mocs 2-2 and needing to win six of their final seven games to feel good about the playoff hopes that seemed predetermined six weeks ago. (And yes, the Mocs have eight games left, but the November trip to Tuscaloosa does not factor into the equation.)
• We expected Alabama to be 4-0 and ranked No. 1, and the Crimson Tide are. But the questions lingered before last week's whitewash of Ole Miss, and the questions remain even if the tone has changed considering All-America safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix leads the league in hyphens and loans from strength coaches.
So should we juggle our expectations now that October has arrived?
Although we still expect Verne to flub early and often today on CSB. Or is that CBS?
God bless Verne for giving us some expectations we always can count on.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com or 423-757-6273. You can follow him at @jgreesontfp.