Jimmy’s Blog: Vols don’t overlook underdogs

By Jimmy Hyams / @JimmyHyams

Entering last weekend’s games, 44 unranked teams had defeated ranked teams, including 12 against top 10 teams.

More than a dozen FCS teams have upset FBS teams.

Double digit underdogs have won a surprisingly large number of games.

Some favorites have struggled to get up for lesser opponents.

Tennessee is not one of them.

The Vols’ focus and intensity have been prevalent in every game this season.

That’s reflected in the fact Tennessee has outscored opponents 162-44 in the first quarter, leads the nation in first-quarter scoring and has covered the spread most of the time when favored.

Saturday’s 60-14 victory over South Alabama was another example that the Vols don’t overlook anyone.

Tennessee led 14-0 after the first quarter, scored touchdowns on their first seven full possessions and converted their first six third downs.

Hendon Hooker was again the catalyst. He completed 17 of 20 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-11 on the third drive, and moved into the top four in the nation in pass efficiency. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is an eye-popping 24 to 3. Not bad for a guy that started the season as a backup.

Tennessee’s focus was illustrated by receiver/returner Velus Jones, Jr., who had to ask Hooker after the South Alabama win if the Vols were indeed bowl eligible.

Tennessee has proven that if you have an average to below average defense, its offense will demolish you, especially early.

How about these first quarter scores: 28-0 over South Carolina, 28-3 over Missouri, 14-0 over Bowling Green, Tennessee Tech and South Alabama, 10-0 over Pitt.

The Vols even led three ranked opponents after the first quarter: 10-7 over Georgia, 14-7 over Alabama and Kentucky.

Scripting plays has helped. A high-octane attack has helped. Being ready to play has helped.

And having fun has helped. There’s no doubt this team enjoys playing the game more than during the Jeremy Pruitt Era. It’s as obvious as the points on the scoreboard.

While Tennessee is only 5-6 against the spread this season, a deeper dive shows UT isn’t likely to be upset by a lesser opponent.

Tennessee was favored by 37 against Bowling Green and won by 32.

It was favored by 38 against Tennessee Tech and won by 56.

It was favored by 10.5 against South Carolina and won by 25 (and led 38-7 at halftime).

It was favored by 28 against South Alabama and won by 46.

It was a 2.5-point underdog to Missouri and won by 38 (it was 45-10 at halftime).

Tennessee (6-5) is favored by 31 against Vanderbilt (2-9).

There’s no reason to think the Vols won’t get off to a lightning fast start and take care of business against a decided underdog.

They’ve done it all season.

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