Member Berries Bowl Preview
Posted: 12-28-2016, 12:04:26 PM
I have to start by saying that it was a shame that Jeff Jacoby and Carrie Fisher were taken from us way to soon.

Jeff Jacoby was always in good spirits and he was always positive. He never wanted to say anything bad about anyone. He even defended Derek Dooley up until he got fired for goodness sake. I know that show was hard to listen to a lot of times but Jeff carried the load when it came to football knowledge. I had a chance to meet Jeff at the 2012 spring game. There weren't many people there so my friend and I were down at field level, just like 20 feet away from Dooley. And let me tell you, it was very hard to resist the temptation to heckle the dipshit. Anyway, Jeff Jacoby was down on the field taking pictures and he came up to my friend and I and made small talk. I remember him saying something about the team that was winning wanting to eat the steaks that night. The losers were to get hotdogs. I just came away from that interaction thinking that he was a very nice and very positive guy. It won't be the same listening to that show anymore. My prayers go out to his family and those who know him best. Rest in peace Jeff Jacoby.

Carrie Fisher's death has also hit me hard because Star Wars is probably my favorite movie franchise. As I'm sure many of you can relate, the original trilogy holds a very special place in my heart. Princess Leia was such a great character and she played her very well. This is selfish, I admit, but I wonder how this will affect episodes VIII and IX? I went to see Rogue One with my sons yesterday and her younger self made a cameo in digitized fashion. Maybe that's how they will handle it. Unselfishly though, I am praying for her family. Her mother is still alive and just had to outlive her child. And her daughter lost her mom way too early.

Now onto football. I'm not going to review the season. I think we all can agree it was an overall failure. The Battle at Bristol was a memorable event. Beating Florida was very sweet. And the Hail Mary at Georgia will be something no one who saw it will ever forget. Other than that, the season was crap.

I refuse to call this bowl by its proper name. It is a lower tier bowl and given the two teams playing, I will refer to it only as the Member Berries Bowl. If you get the reference, awesome. If you don't, then watch the most recent season of South Park.

Tennessee and Nebraska have largely mirrored each other since their dominant runs in the 90's. The last time both teams were truly national powers was in 2001. Tennessee needed only to beat LSU in the SEC Championship Game to play Miami in the Rose Bowl for the BCS Championship. Tennessee choked and was replaced by none other than Nebraska. This was a surprise because Nebraska was destroyed by Colorado in the last game of the regular season.

Since then, both Tennessee and Nebraska have floundered around in upper level mediocrity for the most part and have dipped into having bad teams at times as well. Since 2001, the best bowl Nebraska has been to is the Citrus Bowl and they have had 3 losing seasons and another season that they finished 7-7. Their highest final ranking was 14 in 2009 after a 10-4 season. Since 2001, Tennessee's best bowl was probably the Cotton Bowl, and they have had 6 losing seasons. Tennessee's highest finish was 12th in 2007 after a 10-4 season. Neither team has been relevant in November since 2001.

Lazy journalists will say that the cause of the cause of the decline is lack of instate recruiting. The truth is, both Tennessee and Nebraska have always had to recruit nationally. Nebraska remains a state will a small population but Tennessee has grown a lot in the past 20 years. Nebraska really only has Omaha as a population center. Tennessee has Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, as well as Chattanooga and the Tri Cities. In state talent helps but the bigger factor is getting a good coach. Nebraska was destabilized when Tom Osborne retired and Tennessee was destabilized when David Cutcliffe went to Ole Miss. Both events happened within a year of each other and the declines were slow and gradual. Neither Tennessee or Nebraska have replaced what they lost in coaching back in the late 90's. That is why they haven't been contending for championships. Bo Pelini was a decent coach, but he was never going to be good enough to win championships. Mike Reilly seems to be about the same quality of coach. Butch Jones can recruit and he can win 8, maybe 9 games a year, but he isn't ever going to compete for championships unless he changes a lot. Luckily for Nebraska, they never made a hire as terrible as Derek Dooley.

So now, Tennessee and Nebraska will face off in the Member Berries Bowl in Nashville. The first two meetings between the teams came in the 1998 Orange Bowl and the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. Tennessee was beaten as bad as I've ever seen them beaten in the Orange Bowl. I rewatched that on YouTube a few months back and it was ugly. Before Tennessee could get anything going it was like 28-3 or something like that. Tennessee did a little better in the Fiesta Bowl but it still wasn't as close as the 31-21 score. This year, Tennessee is a 6.5 point favorite. The reasons have to be team speed and Nebraska's quarterback being questionable.

Nebraska also had a good start to the year. They started out 7-0 before losing 3 of their last 5. They were blown out by Ohio State and Iowa so their fans probably have a bad taste in their mouths as well.

We all know how bad Tennessee's rushing defense has been this year. Their overall defense has been pretty bad too. I think this game really just depends on whether or not Tommy Armstrong is going to play for Nebraska. He is a pretty good runner and if Tennessee has to defend him and the defense hasn't improved, then they are in for a long day.

It's hard to get a read on who will be more excited to play given that both teams ended on a bad note. I think Tennessee will be ready to play so they can send Josh Dobbs and the seniors out on a good note. Dobbs will try to be the first senior quarterback since Erik Ainge to win his last bowl game. Before Ainge, it had been a while. Andy Kelly, Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning, Tee Martin, and Casey Clausen all lost their last bowl games.

I think Bob Shoop will have managed to improve his scheme at least a little during bowl prep. And that may make a difference. As of this writing, it isn't looking good for Tommy Armstrong to play in this game. I think Tennessee pulls it out for Josh Dobbs.

Tennessee 35
Nebraska 32

In other bowls...

Peach Bowl

Alabama 38
Washington 20

Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State 41
Clemson 37

National Championship

Alabama 42
Ohio State 36

Orange Bowl

Michigan 39
Florida State 17

Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma 38
Auburn 27

Overall Record (45-30)

I just want to say that Josh Dobbs has been a great representative for the University of Tennessee. He may not be the best thrower, and I still maintain his coaches haven't helped him a lot, but he was one of the more dynamic runners we have seen here. He will go down as the best running quarterback in Tennessee history up until this point. He has the top 2 seasons for rushing yards by a quarterback and he is the only quarterback in Tennessee history to have over 2,000 rushing yards for his career. He ranks in the top 15 for all time rushing yards in a career at Tennessee. He may be replaced by a quarterback with more upside next year, but we should never forget that it was Josh Dobbs who brought Tennessee out of the darkness and we should be thankful that he is a Vol.

And so, another season is at its end. This was a very disappointing season, but at least the streak against Florida ended. Next season will begin in the new stadium in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. And Butch Jones will be firmly on the hot seat. Can he get off of it? History tells us that he probably won't. It all depends on what moves are made in the off season. Whatever happens, let us all hope that we don't run into the ditch in 2017. We don't need a losing season. We have had 6 of those in the past 11 years. Enough is enough. Here is hoping that 2017 will be a better year because 2016 has kinda sucked overall.

That's all I have for now. I probably won't update this blog for a while unless there is something football related that is important enough to address here. I am pretty active on Twitter though, so you can follow me there @Joshes_Blog if you are so inclined.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Thank you all for reading for yet another season. God Bless and Go Vols!

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