We are just days away from what I believe is the most important season of Tennessee football in my lifetime. Before we take a look at this year and I give you a few predictions, let's take care of some Checkerboard Chatter housekeeping items.
We are entering our fourth football season here on CBC. Over the last few years many of you have come back here time and time again. At first it was mostly just my friends and family, but as I started adding writers and we started increasing our content so too did our readership increase. It has been a ton of fun.
As my life has changed my role on Checkerboard Chatter has had to change as well. When this thing started (it seems like a lifetime ago) I had some free time each week to dedicate to blogging and to the maintenance of the site. Now I'm a father of three with a job that requires significant travel and I'm working on a graduate degree. Needless to say, my time for blogging has all but disappeared. My first partner in this venture, Eric Taylor, is in the same boat. As such, we asked our friend and last year's CBC recruiting guru, Drew Pirtle, to take the reins this season and handle the day to day operations of Checkerboard Chatter. We added his partner in crime, Tucker Anderson, and I'm sure you have been reading their stuff over the last few weeks. Michael Bailey will continue his weekly column this season, which many of you said was among your favorite pieces on the site last year. In addition, we have been fortunate enough to start a weekly column written by a guy with an actual journalism degree! Ryan Wooden wrote his introductory piece last week and will be writing for us all year. Eric and I will post when we can. Frankly, it will be hard not to dive back in head first, but I'm just not in a position to be posting 3 or 4 times a week like I did last year.
I know that you will continue to read and enjoy Checkerboard Chatter. We have never pretended to be something that we are not. We are not your source for breaking news on the Vols. Real beat writers from the Knoxville News Sentinel or Chattanooga Times Free Press or the Tennessean get paid to take care of that for you. We are a blog written by fans who probably spend too much time thinking about Tennessee football. I have since seen this slogan on many blogs, but my initial philosophy for Checkerboard Chatter was to be "for Tennessee fans, by Tennessee fans." We don't hide our slant towards Tennessee. We don't pretend to hold ourselves accountable to some unwritten rules of journalistic ethics. We don't hold back when we think things need to change in Knoxville (see my wildly unpopular Bruce Pearl post calling for his firing before many believed that was a real option). We try to be funny and insightful. I know that will continue as these other guys provide you more of the content that you have become accustomed to from our site.
So just as Bernard and Mitch (played by Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson) had to turn over the fraternity to qualified leadership at the end of the legendary movie Old School, so too will Eric and I leave the day to day of Checkerboard Chatter to Drew and his band of merry men. Our stint as captains of this ship was not without fond memories, funny scenarios, and more time and effort than either of us care to admit. I fully expect Checkerboard Chatter to last for years and I hope to one day be as obsessive compulsive with it as I was for the football seasons of 2009, 2010, and 2011. At least for 2012, however, I'll be more in the background.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at my predictions for Tennessee in 2012. I'll go game by game. Let me know what you think.
With the unfortunate news of Da'Rick's Di'Smissal last week, I have dimmed slightly on the Vols. But I think I'm more optimistic on this edition of the Big Orange than most.
NC State in Atlanta - What a huge first game. A win propels Tennessee to a great start. A loss could send this team into a downward spiral. NC State will be good, but Tennessee's offense will be too much. I think Tennessee wins by more than 10 points.
Georgia State in Knoxville - This will be my four year old son's first game at Neyland Stadium. If they do not win then I will seriously consider shutting down Checkerboard Chatter. I think Tennessee wins by more than 14 points.
Florida in Knoxville - Will this finally be the year? It feels like forever since we've beaten the Gators. I think Tennessee will be riding high off of two nice wins and Florida will still be struggling to find their identity with a new quarterback. I think Tennessee wins by more than 3 points.
Akron in Knoxville - I think Tennessee wins by more than 17 points.
Georgia in Athens - If Tennessee is 4-0 going into this game they will likely be in the Top 20 facing a Top 10 team. Georgia's defense will be beastly. If Tennessee still hasn't found a way to run the ball (and when have they the last 4 years?) I don't see the Vols pulling the upset. I think Tennessee loses by less than 10.
Mississippi State in Starkville - Tough game to predict because by this point injuries will have most likely had some impact on the Bulldogs' roster. Of course, key injuries to Tennessee's defense and the Vols could look totally different going into this game too. I don't like this game at all. I think Tennessee wins by more than 3 points.
Alabama in Knoxville - My mind won't let me believe that we have closed the gap on the Tide, regardless of how talented our offense might be. I think Tennessee loses by less than 14.
South Carolina in Columbia - This game could be the difference in a 10 win season with a possible trip to Atlanta (unlikely because of Georgia's high school level strength of schedule) or an 8 or 9 win season. South Carolina will be excellent, but Connor Shaw has no proven weapons to throw to. Sure Lattimore is a beast, but who knows if he'll be healthy by the end of October? I think most Tennessee fans don't think there is any possible way the Vols win in Columbia. Count me in that group. I think Tennessee loses by more than 10.
Troy in Knoxville - I think Tennessee wins by more than 17 points.
Missouri in Knoxville - This game scares me. Especially if the season has played out like I predicted above. We would be in the driver's seat to go 10-2, and Missouri's high powered offense could ruin that. I'll be an arrogant SEC-homer and predict that by November Missouri will be completely worn out from facing their first SEC schedule. I think Tennessee wins by more than 7.
Vanderbilt in Nashville - I think Vanderbilt is set up for a tremendous let down. Look at their schedule. They could easily start 1-4. I think they will be in trouble by the time Tennessee rolls onto West End. I think Tennessee wins by more than 14.
Kentucky in Knoxville - Joker Phillips may have saved his job by beating the Vols last year. He will lose his job after the game this year. I think Tennessee wins by more than 21.
So what if I'm too optimistic! I could easily see the season playing out this way and Tennessee being 9-3. Sadly, it could go a lot of other directions as well. That is why this truly is the most important season of Tennessee football in years. Not because of what happens this year, but because if the wheels fall off of this thing and Tennessee suffers through another coaching change, it could truly be a long, long time before the Vols are back.