My game-by-game picks

I've never claimed to be a college football expert. Frankly, I don't think there's any such animal. When Mississippi State can beat Florida and lose to Maine in the same season (2004), how can anyone think he truly UNDERSTANDS the game?

As a member of the media, however, it is my duty to give my picks for the upcoming University of Tennessee football season … for entertainment purposes only, of course. I wouldn't recommend you bet the house on any of these picks. After all, I projected the Vols to go 10-1 last fall, and we all know how that turned out.

Anyway, I see an 8-4 record with the season unfolding as follows:

CALIFORNIA: Cal head man Jeff Tedford and UT offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe are two of the most respected offensive minds in the college game. Tedford has better athletes executing his plays, though. Cal 27, Tennessee 20.

AIR FORCE: Coming off a season-opening loss to Cal, the angry Vols will be looking to vent their frustration. The Big Orange should build a comfortable halftime lead, then put this one on auto pilot. Tennessee 37, Air Force 14.

FLORIDA: Prediction No. 1: Chris Leak will be booed unmercifully by UT fans. Prediction No. 2: The winner of this game will go on to win the SEC East. Prediction No. 3: Tennessee will find a way to lose. Florida 24, Tennessee 20.

MARSHALL: Unless Marshall alumni Chad Pennington and Randy Moss have some eligibility left, the Thundering Herd will pay for UT's loss to Florida … much as Air Force paid for UT's loss to Cal. Tennessee 31, Marshall 10.

AT MEMPHIS: DeAngelo Williams is gone but guess what? Memphis nearly squeezed the Big Orange last fall in Knoxville without him. This time the Tigers will be playing at home. If the Vols come out flat, they could lose. Tennessee 27, Memphis 17.

AT GEORGIA: Mark Richt will have five games to solidify his quarterback situation before facing UT, which is bad news for the Vols. The Dawgs always seem to make the clutch plays in the fourth quarter, and I'm guessing this time will be no different. Georgia 27, Tennessee 21.

ALABAMA: Brodie Croyle is gone, Tyrone Prothro is hurt and most of that magnificent 2005 Tide defense is playing in the NFL. Of the nine '05 starters Bama must replace, eight were three-year starters. I guess this is what you'd call Ebb Tide. Tennessee 24, Alabama 14.

AT SOUTH CAROLINA: Steve Spurrier has an 8-3 head-to-head record vs. Phil Fulmer, plus the home-field advantage. If I had a logical reason for picking the Volunteers, I'd tell you. I don't. This is just a hunch. Tennessee 28, South Carolina 24.

LSU: The Tigers have better players than Tennessee but they had better players last fall and couldn't win in Baton Rouge. Of course, the Vols haven't exactly been invincible on their home field lately, either. Another hunch: Tennessee 31, LSU 24.

AT ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks have been awfully tough at home under Houston Nutt. They dumped a defending national champ Vol squad 28-24 at Fayetteville in 1999 and should have their best team since 2002 this fall. Arkansas 27, Tennessee 24.

AT VANDERBILT: Could the Commodores beat the Vols two years in a row? No way … not even if the game were played on Bobby Johnson's driveway. Tennessee 31, Vanderbilt 17.

KENTUCKY: Wildcat quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders returns to Neyland Stadium for the first time as an opponent. He'll probably be treated much better wearing blue than he was when he wore orange. Strange world, isn't it? Tennessee 35, Kentucky 14.

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