Devil's Advocate

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of punch/counter punch — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart choose sides and make their cases for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification. This week Stewart makes the case for the Vols and Moore explains why Wyoming may prevail.



If this were Hollywood, the Tennessee Vols would go out Saturday afternoon and vindicate head coach Phillip Fulmer — forced to resign earlier this week — by slaughtering the Wyoming Cowboys.

This isn't Hollywood, however, and the Big Orange isn't likely to slaughter anybody. This is a team that ranks No. 114 nationally (out of 119 programs) in both scoring offense and total offense. This is a team that managed just one offensive touchdown in five of its games â€" Florida, Auburn, Northern Illinois, Alabama and South Carolina â€" and just two offensive TDs vs. UCLA and Georgia.

The simple fact is, Tennessee might be better off punting the ball away on first down than allowing its attack unit to take the field. The offense gave South Carolina two gift TDs last weekend — one as the direct result of a 68-yard interception return and the other as the indirect result of a 38-yard fumble return to the UT 4-yard line.

Nine games into the season the Vol attack appears no further along than it was in Game 1. The offensive linemen still can't run-block. The receivers still can't get separation. The quarterbacks still can't make plays on third down to keep the chains moving.

But you know what's most discouraging of all? The players aren't mad at themselves for costing Fulmer his job. Instead, they're mad at athletics director Mike Hamilton, who they glared at and walked out on during the resignation news conference.

Showing your support for a deposed coach is admirable. Showing your a** in a public place is bush league. The lack of composure exhibited by several players Monday afternoon offers a pretty compelling argument for why the Vols are 3-6 this season ... and a pretty compelling argument for why they are unlikely to slaughter Wyoming Saturday afternoon.



Scenarios abound for the Tennessee-Wyoming contest because of the tumult surrounding this, otherwise, inconsequential clash, could impact the Vols negatively or positively or not at all.

Clearly it's the worst kind of distraction not only because it profoundly affects everyone on the team, it's the type of news that tends to put things in perspective. Suddenly football games seem less significant than the relationships the game of football forges. In short it would be easy for the Vols to come out flat or fade late.

On the other hand the pressure that has been building all season regarding Coach Fulmer's job status is no longer an issue and the players may respond in kind by not pressing in competition which often results in mistakes. The Vols may even get an emotional boost from playing for a strong finish and a potential bowl bid. Winning the final three games possibly picking up a bowl bid and a shot at a winning record is not too ambitious given the remaining schedule.

Even without an emotional charge the Vols should perform better because Wyoming doesn't pose some of the match-up problems SEC opponents have by playing press coverage and allowing one or both safeties to play the run. UT's receivers should be able to get open more often. The Cowboys will probably provide help with a safety over the top due to a less than formidable front four that will have a more difficult time getting pressure on the passer.

With the mistakes they've made this season and the anemic offense they've played, the Vols haven't appeared to ever throw in the towel and they will give a good effort for their departing coach against Wyoming.

The end result will be a Tennessee victory and one of the better performances of a long season.

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