I have never seen a more wildly inconsistent football team in my life than the 2016 Tennessee Volunteers and the only conclusion I can draw is, like the commercials say, the miserable first half Volunteers have cable and the powerhouse second half Vols have DirecTV.
In the last two weeks, the Volunteers have taken those polar opposites to new levels by being outscored 38-10 in the first half and still finding a way to win both games.
Against Florida two Saturdays ago, the Vols headed into the locker down 18 points at home with boos raining down on the players, fans calling for Butch Jones’ head on a spike and some even heading for the exits early (whoops) — only for UT to come back with a vengeance in the final 30 minutes to win, 38-28.
This past Saturday, UT fell behind Georgia, 17-0 — thanks in part to a Jalen Hurd brain fart at the goal line — only to roar back and take a 28-24 lead with three minutes to go, blow said lead due to a ridiculous lapse in the secondary with less than 20 seconds left and still win on a Hail Mary as time expired.
Tennessee has perfected the art of slow starts through five weeks of the season.
The Vols fell behind Appalachian State 13-3 in Week 1, gave up 14 points to Virginia Tech before waking up at Bristol Motor Speedway and led lowly Ohio University by a score of just 14-12 at halftime of Week 3.
I’d really like to be a fly on the wall in Tennessee’s locker room to see what Jones does to cue these miraculous turnarounds. Does he perform live sacrifices for the football gods? Make a deal with the devil? Give halftime speeches more rousing than coach Eric Taylor of “Friday Night Lights”?
It’s totally inexplicable – even to Jones himself.
“I’m as mind-boggled as everyone on the slow starts,” Jones said after the Georgia victory, not inspiring confidence in UT fans.
Well, Tennessee plays at No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday and then hosts No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 8. If the Vols get behind double-digits in both of those games, not even Jones’ insane halftime voodoo magic will be enough to bring Tennessee all the way back to win.
So what are you waiting for, Butch?
Don’t be like the First Half Vols on Saturday, call 1-800-DirecTV.
— Written by Jim Weber, a veteran college sports journalist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Weber has written for CBS Sports Network, NBCSports.com, ESPN the Magazine and the college sports website he founded and sold, LostLettermen.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber.