Down The Field to Tennessee (Cal Football Season Preview)

Posted by: Avinash on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

The time to this season’s kickoff can be counted now in the mere hours (just over seventy-two away from starting things off at Memorial Stadium). Who has the advantage? Let’s find out from the other side–Volunteers fans. I wonder where their allegiances could lie.

These are all genuine responses from Vols fans at their message board. It’s a vibrant community, definitely worth checking out if you want some more insight into Tennessee sports.

There has long been a contention that SEC fans are more passionate and diehard in support of their teams, especially in contrast to the laid-back Pac-10. Having lived and travelled through the South in my formative years, I know how much you guys care about it, perhaps tooo much. Is this really a good thing, or does it burn you out (especially after a loss to Florida or LSU)?
It doesnt burn this Vol fan out. I will say that the expectations are so high for each years team that people can be blinded by their love and their expectations…only to be disappointed and hurt when the team doesn’t live up to them.

It never burns us out. We look forward to it every year. When we say football is like religion down here, we mean it. It’s a topic 365 days a year, and we’re perfectly happy with that. In other sports in other regions, the game is just that, a game. Down here, whether you at the stadium or watching at home, the whole day is considered “an event”.

And it doesn’t hurt that every single one of us on this board have friends, good friends, or relatives that are alumni or fans of one or more of our rivals. Braggin’ Rights are big, and having to wait 365 for revenges is tough. Die Hard doesn’t come close to accurate description when your best friend is a Bama fan and you’ve lost 11 in a row to them (as i had to suffer thru with my best friend when i was a kid).

Only a fan who is embarrassed by the complacency of his brethren would ask those questions. That SEC fans are much more “into” their teams is simply undebatable. It is as sure as death and taxes. Maybe more so. No one who has spent any amount of time watching the game can for a second with straight face claim otherwise.

Is it a bad thing? Huh? Every weekend in the SEC 80,000 to 100,000 people jam into the stadiums of Gainesville, Athens, Knoxville, Auburn, Tuscaloosa, etc. They bring with them dollars that go into both the local communities and the schools. A successful football program in the SEC is a license to print money for the academic side of things, too.

Dollars aside, no price tag can be put on the experience as a college freshman going to your first games. The camaraderie, the pride, the just plain good old fashioned fun of being part of group of thousands of fans is something that cannot be explained, only felt.

I actually feel badly for you PAC 10 fans that have no idea what you are missing. Does it hurt when you lose one of these SEC games? Oh, yes, it surely does!! But it also just makes it so much sweeter when you get your revenge later… And in the SEC, you always get your revenge.

What are the big games for you other than Cal this year? Florida and LSU? Who are the top dogs this year in the SEC?

LSU will only be big if we see them in the SEC Championship Game…which would be just fine with me. But the usuals are Florida, Alabama, Georgia…those three are always big. You can throw South Carolina in the mix as well now; having that Spurrier/Fulmer thing going on again instantly added some spice to that matchup.

Arkansas will be a big game this year, simply because of how they beat us last year. A lot of people are looking to that game as a pretty good benchmark…can we contain Darren McFadden at all, or will we get pushed around up front again?

The reality with the SEC the way it is today, is just about every conference game is big. Hell, if you believe what you read, Kentucky is going to be a HUGE game at the end of the year…

With the rotating schedule you can usually count on at least 5-6 “big” conference games a year…then throw in one big OOC game…the schedule just is chock full of big games…in the not too distant future, we have OOC games against Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA, NC State, UNC…and it won’t be long before Auburn rotates back on the schedule from the West. I can tell you the schedule for us will not be considered weak over the next 10 years or so.

I assume most of you were at Rocky Top last year. How much do you think the crowd contributed to the demolition of Cal? Or was the team that much better?

I wasn’t there, but I’d say probably both. From all accounts I’ve heard, Autzen Stadium is the only Pac-10 stadium that is capable of producing noise in the same ballpark as SEC stadiums. And living in Oregon, I can tell you that’s rare. It’s only for those special visits like USC or Michigan.

I think the crowd could have played a role in the outcome of the game, However I find it odd that a team like CAL wasn’t coached to be ready for a SEC type atmosphere and 107,000 fans. If the team didn’t know what they were walking into, and truly were caught off guard then I say blame the coaches for not preparing the players. After all, in the SEC we play high intensity games every week. Typically you will find 3-5 SEC teams in the top 10 in the polls ,this is what we are used to. This is what level we are used to playing on week in and week out.

Now was CAL the better team last year? At 35-0 in the 3rd qtr I’d have to say no. CAL looked unprepared and out of their league. The films of the game say it all. Cal was beaten on both sides of the ball all the way around. That my friends was done by the players on the field, not the crowd.

Don’t overlook the fact that the ’06 team had a HUGE chip on its shoulder following an embarrassing ’05 campaign. Couple that with the always-raucous Neyland faithful and the resulting snowball of momentum would have been more than any team in Cal’s position could have handled.

The fact that Cal is the team with a chip on its shoulder this year is the only thing that worries me about Saturday’s game.

Break down the game for us. Other than the setting, there have been a few noticeable changes. We’ve lost Marshawn Lynch, a spectator in Neyland, and most of our defensive stars from last year. You lost [WR Robert] Meachem and most of the dynamic receivers that tore up Cal last year, and you won’t have Coker available this week. What will be the key changes and matchups that fans on both sides should look out for?

Last year Cal got dominated at the line of scrimmage by perhaps the worst offensive line in the last 15 seasons. This year, the emphasis has been on pounding the ball. Seeing as Cal returns the linebacker that could not tackle a 3rd string tailback, the chances of Cal winning the game are slim.

Forsett did next to nothing against UT last year and behind him are untested freshmen. Longshore is, at best, an “inept, clownfooted QB” according to Mike Silver, Cal alum who works for Sports Illustrated. DeSean Jackson got the large majority of his yards against UT’s 2nd and 3rd string DBs, while not looking very impressive against UT’s first string.

You may have pegged it with those secondary-WR matchups. IMO, that is overwhelmingly the factor that contributed to Tennessee’s dominance last year. Tennessee has the athleticism to find and exploit a weak spot again, I just don’t think it will be on the outside this time. It’s too early for a young WR corps to pull it off.

Does UT have any big weaknesses other than at the receiving end? And how is their special teams? (I know the SEC too well, special teams can get crazy).

Depth on the defensive line is also a concern this year. The secondary, while very young, has made a few waves in fall practices, but the verdict is still out on that group as well. Our receiver issues may have contributed to some of their success.

Special teams have recently been less than special. The Sloppy play that you described has marginalized our efforts in this area. However, the infusion of speed from the 2007 class has fans excited about big play potential on the return teams.

The best kicker on the team, Dustin Colquitt, has a tweaked quad. His natural position is punter, but he was going to be counted on to kickoff, and for field goals as well. If niether offense is clicking and the UT/Cal game turns into a battle for field position, this could be a problem for UT.

Some, including myself, hope that UT will have more team speed this year than last, and also have some expectation the offensive line to show slight improvement (at the least). For that reason, Cal fans should look for a healthy dose of UT’s rushing offense.

Who is Tennessee’s biggest rival? It used to be Kentucky right? And I know it’s just mean to consider Vanderbilt (although they beat you two years ago)…so, Florida?
In the modern era UK and Vandy aren’t even close.

For the under-30 crowd I would say UF and the over-30 crowd it’s ‘bama….


Thoughts on our Volunteer “friends”? Let them know what you think in the comments.

Topics: Cal Football

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