Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vegas was kind to the Vols

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The wise guys in Las Vegas were being kind to Tennessee.
    
When someone told me the Vols were 28-point underdogs to top-ranked Alabama, I thought it would be a fairly safe wager.
    
Take Tennessee and the points. The Vols had been on an uptick, almost beating Georgia and then upsetting South Carolina.
    
I guess that’s why I always keep my money in my pocket.
    
I knew Alabama was the real deal, although I still think they are not as overpowering as they were last season. I don’t discount they will be by the end of the year. Playing for Nick Saban is a marathon, not a sprint.
    
No fancy plays designed to trick a defense. Nothing but old- fashioned blocking and tackling. Because when you boil it down, that’s how football games are won or lost. Down and dirty. And it sure helps if you get your pick of the high school All-Americans.
    
Despite the 45-10 beatdown, Vols Coach Butch Jones is on the right path with his brick-by-brick philosophy. He needs to get more football players on campus that look like the ones Saban threw at the Vols.
    
Jones’ recruiting chops are impressive, especially when you consider what the combined efforts of Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley did in taking the program down to bare bones.
    
Fans have to understand the situation. Alabama has the best  football program in the country. Not just the SEC. In the country. Saban is a stickler for details.
    
Players play hard for him, knowing if they do their job they will likely leave the Capstone with some national championship rings and if they have the football résumé, a future in the NFL.
    
Playing in the SEC week after week is like butting your head into a concrete wall. It’s just what Tennessee has experienced the last four weeks. The Vols came close, but no cigar, to upsetting an injury-depleted but nationally ranked Georgia team on Oct. 5.
    
They had a bye week, then shocked the world when they beat nationally ranked South Carolina 23-21 at raucous Neyland Stadium. You don’t see South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s team held to 21 points very often.
    
Seven days later, Alabama brings the Vols back to earth. The outcome reminded everyone in the Big Orange Nation that they have mile and miles to go before they can sleep.
    
“The next step in the evolution of our football program and football team is to learn how to win on the road," Jones said.
    
“When you play on the road you are responsible for creating your own momentum and opportunities. Obviously we did not do that in any way, shape or form in the first half. That is very disappointing.’’
    
That’s life in the SEC.
    
The Vols dug themselves a 35-0 crater in the first 30 minutes. Alabama wasn’t about to take its foot off the Vols’ air hose.
    
Jones called it the worst half of football his team has played all season. The timing could not have been worse.
    
“Some of it was due to the quality of our opponent. Some of it was self-inflicted wounds. We talked about having to start fast. Everything had a snowball effect."
    
The road doesn’t get much easier. At Missouri Saturday, after the Tigers lost for the first time. Then Auburn and Vanderbilt at home and at Kentucky. They need two more wins to become bowl eligible.
    
Fire up the kilns.
    
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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