In many cases, that evaluation is justified.
And then there are times when it's tough to blame SEC teams for scheduling a few lightweights among a long line of conference heavyweights.
The first Saturday of the season
offered some valuable lessons in the benefits of opening with lesser opponents.
And then there's
"You can debate that every year,"
"From top to bottom, our league is
pretty darn tough. But the top two or three teams in any of the leagues that
play for the national championship year in and year out (are good).
Makes you wonder what Fulmer would do if he could do it over again. Tennessee has been brave enough to face more than its share of tough nonconference opponents over the past two decades, with games against Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame, Southern Cal, UCLA and Syracuse (back when Syracuse stood for something).
The Vols have won some and lost some along the way, but Fulmer believes it's a risk worth taking.
"Those games pay great dividends because of the national exposure for recruiting," Fulmer said. "And when you open with one, your team knows in the summer that it better be ready from the get-go."
And then there's the other side of the debate. The one that says SEC teams already beat up on each other, so why should they go outside the conference and add even more challenging games to an already rugged schedule?
"I don't think SEC schools need to load their schedules with nationally ranked opponents to improve strength of schedule," Miles said.
SEC athletic directors would also be quick to point out the need for paying the bills. It takes money, and lots of it, to pay for all those football salaries, let alone maintenance on huge stadiums, new construction, more volleyballs and new softball bats.
Somewhere in the middle there's an
attempt to establish some sort of balance. You can't play I-AA teams every week
(and if you're
"I don't think you need to sign up
four premier programs,"
It would seem that the best balance
would come in playing mid-level Division I-A teams, such as the better
It's a tenuous balance at best; one
that SEC teams work constantly to traverse.
This week, the AU Tigers will play
With all that on their plate, it's easy to forgive the Tigers for playing Tennessee Tech on Nov. 3.
"People talk about how SEC teams
won't play anybody, but we've tried to get teams to play us,"
"I'd heard a lot of comments that
the SEC is a more physical conference," said
Very few Vols were willing to man-up and admit they simply got whipped at times.
"They weren't all that physical up
front, but they had a lot of plays that helped them out,"
If that's the case, how bad can
things get for the Vols this season? At least
"That's not typical of
As for his own defense, Chavis said, "We didn't play the way we were capable of playing. The tackling was not acceptable. We're going to get that squared away. We'll look at personnel; we'll look at the whole deal. Whatever we need to do to get better, that's what we're going to do.
"Right now our focus is going back to Knoxville, getting this game behind us, correcting the mistakes, and getting back on the field. And I can't wait to get back on the field to work. Because we've got a lot of work to do. ...
"We didn't play
Middle linebacker Tray Blackmon missed most of the second half after injuring his ankle on an interception return in the final play of the first half. Safety Aairon Savage, who makes the secondary calls, spent most of the second half in a walking boot to protect an ankle injury. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite has a hamstring injury.
"It looked like a M*A*S*H unit at halftime with the defense," said Tuberville.
And then there's senior quarterback Brandon Cox, whose knees and ankles were never the same after taking a beating in the third game against LSU last season. This time, Cox took several violent shots to the upper body and left with a cut on his right thumb, a bruised right shoulder, and who knows what else.
Cox still managed to rally
"He's a tough young man," Tuberville said. "He took a beating."
"We knew they were a great football team, and we had to stop the run early and take all their momentum," defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "And that's what we did."
Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford looked confident and efficient, running back Thomas Brown looked healthy after last year's season-ending knee injury, and the Bulldogs appeared to once again have some capable playmakers at receiver.
"I thought it was an extremely
solid performance all the way around,"
We'll know a lot more about the
Bulldogs on Saturday when they play
Then again, who knows how good the Gamecocks are after they struggled to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 28-14?
"In a way this is real good for our team. Now we know we're just a bunch of average stiffs," Spurrier said. "And we're going to have a very average year if we don't play a lot better. So we don't need to think we're any good."
Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.