Help or hindrance?

Trying to project how a team will play following an open date is tricky. Trying to project how a Tennessee team will playing following an open date is downright foolhardy.

The highs tend to be really high. For instance: The unranked 2007 Vols came off an open date to trounce a 12th-ranked Georgia team, 35-14. And the unranked 2009 Vols came off a bye week to play No. 1 Alabama off its feet in Tuscaloosa before losing 12-10.

Likewise, the lows tend to be really low. For instance: The fourth-ranked 2002 Vols came off an open date to lose 30-13 at home to No. 10 Florida. And the fifth-ranked 2005 Vols came off a bye week to lose 16-7 to sixth-ranked Florida in Gainesville.

All told, Tennessee has played 16 games following open dates during the past decade, winning 10 and losing six. That's a so-so .625 winning percentage. Of course, the number probably would be higher except that the Vols usually schedule their open dates prior to facing top-drawer opponents.

Tennessee's modest level of success following open dates is typical of the national trend. Most programs find very little correlation between an open date and success the following weekend.

"The statistics show it's no advantage," Tennessee's Derek Dooley said this week. "It's like 50-50."

That's a bit surprising. You'd expect a team with an extra week of rest and preparation time to bring its A-Game. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn't.

"It can be an advantage because you obviously have more meeting time," Dooley said. "You have more time to work some fundamentals. The obvious things tell you it's an advantage.

"The disadvantage is you get out of your routine. You're a lot longer from the game speed and the tempo. So sometimes teams come out early and it's like, ‘Oh, man, it hasn't been this fast in a while.'

"And sometimes you can over-coach them. You feel like you have all this time and you put in all these plays and have all these great schemes, and then you go out there and look terrible."

With defending national champ Alabama visiting Neyland Stadium this Saturday for a 7 o'clock kickoff, Tennessee fans are hoping last weekend's open date provided the springboard to a colossal upset. Perhaps it will. Or perhaps it merely set the stage for a colossal flop. Dooley saw both sides of that coin during his days at Louisiana Tech.

"I've seen us coming out of the bye week ripping it," he recalled. "And I've seen a team look unprepared and everybody in the stands goes, ‘What did they just do for two weeks?' and for good reason."

Here's a recap of Tennessee's post-open date performances during the past 10 years:

2009: Unranked Tennessee lost 12-10 at No. 1 Alabama en route to a 7-6 record.

2008: Unranked Tennessee won 20-10 at unranked Vanderbilt en route to a 5-7 record.

2007: Unranked Tennessee won 35-14 vs. No. 12 Georgia en route to a 10-4 record.

2006: No. 7 Tennessee won 16-13 vs. unranked Alabama en route to a 9-4 record.

2005: No. 5 Tennessee lost 16-7 at No. 6 Florida en route to a 5-6 record.

2005: No. 17 Tennessee lost 6-3 at No. 5 Alabama en route to a 5-6 record.

2004: No. 13 Tennessee won 30-28 vs. No. 11 Florida en route to a 10-3 record.

2004: No. 15 Tennessee won 38-33 at unranked Vanderbilt en route to a 10-3 record.

2003: No. 12 Tennessee won 24-10 at No. 17 Florida en route to a 10-3 record.

2003: No. 22 Tennessee won 51-43 in 5 OT at unranked Alabama en route to a 10-3 record.

2002: No. 4 Tennessee lost 30-13 vs. No. 10 Florida en route to an 8-5 record.

2002: No. 16 Tennessee lost 34-14 vs. No. 19 Alabama en route to an 8-5 record.

2001: No. 7 Tennessee won 26-18 at No. 14 LSU en route to an 11-2 record.

2001: No. 11 Tennessee won 35-24 at unranked Alabama en route to an 11-2 record.

2000: No. 11 Tennessee lost 27-23 vs. No. 16 Florida en route to an 8-4 record.

2000: Unranked Tennessee won 20-10 vs. unranked Alabama en route to an 8-4 record.


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