Randy Smith: Butch's Last Stand?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
There are some media pundits who may know a lot more than I do that believe this weekend's Tennessee-Georgia game in Knoxville will be the last stand for Vols' coach Butch Jones. The 7th ranked Bulldogs are favored to win the game Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium, which would snap a two game losing streak to the Volunteers. Unranked Tennessee is coming off of one of the Vols most uninspired wins in years, a 17-13 win over winless UMass. In defending Tennessee, the game came after a heartbreaking loss at Florida on the last play and just before perhaps the Vols' biggest game of the year against Georgia.

Personally, I don't believe this will be his last stand if the Vols lose to the Bulldogs.
A loss will certainly not help matters in Big Orange Country at all, but Butch Jones days would certainly be numbered. One observation about the teams lackluster play against the Minutemen last weekend is the fact that the Volunteers may be about to quit on their coach. If that truly does happen, then Butch could be fired in mid-season. I personally don't believe that one either.

Of course if the Vols pull the upset of Georgia and extend their winning streak to three in a row, Tennessee is right back in the SEC East race. Taking things a "game at a time" the rest of the way is exactly what the Volunteers need to do, if they beat the Bulldogs. A loss to Georgia however will just about seal the deal that Tennessee will not win the East, 

Let's face the cold hard facts. Nobody ever thought Tennessee would win the SEC East this season anyway. I felt that the very best record the Vols would have would be another 8-4 regular season mark. Some of those same pundits said another 8-4 record would cost Butch his job. I said all along I didn't believe that one either. In looking ahead, regardless of how things turn out this weekend with Georgia, I believe that Alabama is the only sure loss remaining. The Vols can win every other game, including that home game with LSU on November 18th. Winning the rest of their SEC games (except Alabama) would mean that Butch could become the Coach of the Year in the SEC.

Playing in the Southeastern Conference week in and week out, takes its toll on a head coach, his staff and a school's fan base. Things are more equal than they've been in a long time. For instance, any one of four or five teams could win the East, though Georgia looks to be the clear cut favorite. Second place in the West is wide open as well for just about every team except Ole Miss. If the stars and the moon are lined up properly, then Alabama could even lose an SEC game, though I personally don't believe that one either.

What I do believe is this: Tennessee is still a talented football team that deserves better coaching than they've received so far in 2017.  If the Volunteers' coaching staff can pick up the pace a lot over the next few weeks they could be right back in the thick of things in the East race. Stranger things have happened in this crazy world of college football.

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.

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