Moore on that subject

Although his success against Tennessee forced me to make more trips to the Citrus Bowl than I would have preferred, I've always had a grudging admiration for Steve Spurrier. I respected his offensive innovations but I respected his scheduling wizardry, as well.

Spurrier's schedules generally opened with a couple of outmanned opponents. Check out the results of Games 1 and 2 during his last eight seasons as head coach at Florida ...

1994: New Mexico State (70-21) and Kentucky (73-7)
1995: Houston (45-21) and Kentucky (42-7)
1996: Southwestern Louisiana (55-21) and Georgia Southern (62-14)
1997: Southern Miss (21-6) and Central Michigan (82-6)
1998: The Citadel (49-10) and Northeast Louisiana (42-10)
1999: Western Michigan (55-26) and Central Florida (58-27)
2000: Ball State (40-19) and Middle Tennessee State (55-0)
2001: Marshall (49-14) and Louisiana-Monroe (55-6)

Except for Southern Miss in '97, there wasn't a team in the bunch capable of giving the Gators a challenge. This scheduling strategy provided several advantages:

1) It enabled Florida to start every season 2-0.
2) It allowed the Gators to build some confidence.
3) It enabled Spurrier to give his backups some experience and rest his starters.
4) It allowed Spurrier to find out which subs he could rely on.

Perhaps taking a page from Spurrier's scheduling playbook, the Tennessee Vols are opening the 2002 season with a couple of beatable opponents. Game 1 foe Wyoming was 2-9 last year and featured one of the NCAA's weakest defenses. Game 2 foe Middle Tennessee State is no cupcake but the Blue Raiders are no Nebraska, either.

Clearly, Tennessee should be 2-0 when it hosts Florida in Game 3. That's a plus. The Vols should have the confidence that comes from two comfortable wins. That's a plus. UT's reserves should have some game experience. That's a plus. Perhaps the biggest plus of all is that head coach Phillip Fulmer should know how much help he can get from key reserves such as RB Derrick Tinsley, WR C.J. Fayton, OLB Kevin Simon and DBs Cory Larkins and Robert Boulware. He also should have an idea what to expect from newcomers such as WR Jonathan Wade, RB Gerald Riggs, Jr., TE Aaron Kirkland, OL Cody Douglas, DT LaRon Harris, DEs Jonathon Mapu and Mondre Dickerson, LB Parys Haralson and DB Gibril Wilson.

While some Vol fans might prefer that Tennessee open with a couple of tougher tests, there are advantages to scheduling a couple of beatable foes on the front end. Spurrier proved that.


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