Tennessee football’s first foe, the West Virginia Mountaineers, has a few injuries. And Dana Holgorsen has some excuses. But that won’t help the Volunteers.
When it comes to Tennessee football fans, they can be delusional like any other fan base. However, I put them in a different category than others. Rocky Top can be objective AND overly optimistic at the same time.
Vols fans will acknowledge if their team has weaknesses anywhere. But they’ll follow that up by looking for reasons they’ll be able to overcome it. Such is the case with their season-opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Most people acknowledge that WVU has the better team. Dana Holgorsen has a group loaded with star power coming off a 7-6 campaign and looking to take a huge step forward. As a result, all Tennessee football fans would admit that Jeremy Pruitt’s first game as a head coach is a major uphill climb to win.
Well, they may have found the unconventional path to make that climb easier. If you listen to Vol Nation this week, the talk is all about West Virginia injuries and Holgorsen’s distractions. We’ll start with Holgorsen’s distractions.
The guy, to be fair to Rocky Top, is inexplicably making excuses already in case of a loss. He started by complaining at Big 12 Media Days, noting his team has 11 Power Five opponents on the year. Billy Williford had a post about that. What Billy didn’t know was he was forecasting a litany of excuses coming up.
Enter October. Holgorsen complained about Tennessee football having a bit longer to prepare for the opener because of when they started school. Then, this week, he complained about the Vols keeping their depth chart vague.
All of these complaints make it seem like they’re real issues for him. After all, why would he say all of this ahead of time unless he needed an excuse for losing? Well, that’s the take many on Rocky Top have. But it’s only part of why they think they can win now.
The other big thing working in their favor is injuries. WVU has lost three players already, two for the season and another indefinitely. Combining that with Holgorsen’s excuses is giving a bit of false hope to Vols fans. Don’t count on it.
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Here’s where we follow up with the facts. Let’s start with Holgorsen. Sure, he has complaints. But he also noted earlier this month that the maturity of this WVU team is ‘light years ahead’ of past teams. So even with a little less preparation, his group should be ready. As for 11 Power Five opponents, well, that may take a toll in the middle of the season. But it won’t in the opener.
Then there are the injuries. West Virginia lost a backup cornerback in Jake Long and two true freshmen in Dillon Spalding and Mike O’Laughlin. Forgive me for thinking that losing three guys who were never going to play much is not going to have an impact in the opener.
West Virginia has indeed been on the excuse train throughout the offseason. But if Tennessee football is going to win this game, none of these things will be the reason. So Vols fans just have to hope that they can somehow get the best of the air raid offense, and Will Grier, with their 3-4 defense. It truly is a great first test for Pruitt.
On the flip side, West Virginia fans shouldn’t point to these minor things as excuses if, somehow, the Vols shock them. I’m saying right here WVU is the better team, and losing backups to injury or having one less day to prepare is not going to change that. So none of these exterior factors will be to blame if the Vols beat them.