Originally posted on Checkerboard Chatter  |  Last updated 11/23/11

There are many things to be thankful for in 2011 if you are a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers.  This post is a football related entry so I'll make my basketball thoughts brief.  After the first four games of the Cuonzo Martin era, I am thankful that he and his staff are working for the University of Tennessee.  He is clearly maximizing the ability of his players, and I am eager to watch the Vols get into the SEC portion of their schedule.  Now let's segway back to football.  The three things I am most thankful for this season are (in no particular order) 1.) the non-conference schedule 2.) Vanderbilt 3.) Kentucky. 

I, like many others, was critical of the decision to buyout the North Carolina game.  My ire was only intensified after last year's Music City Bowl.  A crack at UNC to avenge that debacle is an enticing thought, but the Buffalo game was probably a better serving match-up for this season.  In fact, Montana, Cincy, MTSU and Buffalo were perfect opponents for the Vols this season.  Also, annual whipping boys, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, are a sight for sore eyes because the Vols have had an absolutely BRUTAL SEC Conference schedule in 2011.  In September, I wrote that the Vols' climb back to greatness is being hampered by the fact that the Vols are playing in the "Golden Age" of the SEC.  This past week's BCS standings only strengthen that argument.  Of the Vols' six SEC losses, five of them have come to teams ranked in the top 13 of the current BCS standings, and three of the losses are to the top three teams! (See below for standings.)  The sixth loss was against a Florida team that is obviously bad by Florida standards.  In defense of the Vols however, the game was in the Swamp (where the Vols never seem to play all that well), and the Vols lost their best offensive player in Justin Hunter only a few snaps into the game.  All in all, it hasn't been the kindest of SEC schedules.

 BCS standings:

1.)  LSU, 2.) Alabama, 3.) Arkansas, 12.) South Carolina, 13.) Georgia

You can also look at it this way; UT has played the toughest teams from the SEC West, a trio that no other SEC East school was forced to play.  Here's a breakdown of each SEC East school's schedule vs. the West.

Georgia - Ole Miss, Miss. St., Auburn

South Carolina - Auburn, Miss. St., Arkansas

Florida - Alabama, LSU, Auburn

Vanderbilt - Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas

Kentucky - LSU, Miss St., Ole Miss

Tennessee - Alabama, LSU, Arkansas - NEWSFLASH - TOP 3 BCS SCHOOLS

Clearly, Georgia is the class of the SEC East, but how awesome would it have been to be able to trade the rotational games of LSU and Arkansas for Ole Miss and Mississippi State?  I know why Mark Richt was smooching on his wife after the Dawgs clinched the SEC East.  He was clearly thankful he had Ole Miss and Mississippi State on his schedule. 

So what's the point of this exercise?  Am I making excuses for Tennessee due to the teams they had to play in conference?  Don't all SEC teams in theory have tough schedules?  Am I inviting everyone to a pity party for the Vols?  No, that's not it at all so here goes.  As Derek Lusk wrote here, the Vols have lost the games they were supposed to lose this year, and they have won the games they were supposed to win.  If they keep their epic streak alive vs. Kentucky this Saturday, the Vols will go bowling.  Coming into the season 6-6 was a very common prediction for this team, and that was with a healthy Lathers, Hunter and Bray.  Also, most of those .500 predictions included Janzen Jackson.  The Vols have had their share of misfortune.  To be balanced in this post, there have also been coaching miscues and mistakes along the way, but Derek Dooley has proved himself to deserve adequate time to turn this thing around. 

Let's hope next year we are thankful for a team that's in the running for the SEC title.  After all, I believe LSU rotates out, and Mississippi State rotates in.  That's something all Big Orange zealots should be thankful for.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Broncos players believe Siemian has won starting job

Report: Goodell close to signing five-year extension with NFL

Report: Pacers accuse Lakers of tampering with Paul George

Report: Anquan Boldin abruptly tells Bills he's retiring

Todd Bowles blames O-line for Christian Hackenberg’s poor preseason outing

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Justin Verlander implies baseballs are juiced

Blake Griffin: I could see LeBron going to NYC before LA

Ric Flair's daughter says WWE legend 'getting better'

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for tampering

Report: Le'Veon Bell may return to Steelers by Labor Day

Report: Savage 'firmly in control' of Texans' starting QB job

Getaway Day: The playing field is leveling off as the wild-card chase takes shape

Sports & Politics Intersect: Echoes of Charlottesville ripple across the sports world

Best of Yardbarker: NFL goes in on Ezekiel Elliott, NFLPA

BIG3 Playoff Preview: Can anyone stop Trilogy?

The 'Bye bye to the Beast Incarnate?' quiz

Why the SEC is not the best football conference anymore

Box Score 8/18: Reds and Cubs claw through a 23-run game

The 'M! E! S! S! Mess! Mess! Mess!' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Giancarlo Stanton won't stop hitting homers

NFL shifts blame for Zeke suspension to police and NFLPA

Box Score 8/17: Interleague games bring the fireworks

The 'Forget Calvin, bring back Jerry' quiz

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Getaway Day: The playing field is leveling off as the wild-card chase takes shape

Sports & Politics Intersect: Echoes of Charlottesville ripple across the sports world

BIG3 Playoff Preview: Can anyone stop Trilogy?

The 'Bye bye to the Beast Incarnate?' quiz

Why the SEC is not the best football conference anymore

The 'M! E! S! S! Mess! Mess! Mess!' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Giancarlo Stanton won't stop hitting homers

NFL shifts blame for Zeke suspension to police and NFLPA

The 'Forget Calvin, bring back Jerry' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Charles Oakley slams the phone — and his opponents — down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker