- Josh and Swain Newsletter
- 🏈 Tennessee's finishing touches on 2023
🏈 Tennessee's finishing touches on 2023
Can the Vols finish strong to set up a stronger 2024?
Hello. This is the Josh and Swain Newsletter, a quick roundup of the week’s top stories and topics involving Tennessee and the sports world.
Here’s what we have for you today:
Tennessee looks for a strong finish to create a new start for the future
How much will college football’s top transfers cost this offseason?
What went wrong for Tennessee basketball… and how the Vols can improve
College football’s biggest game this week has some extra spice
SENIOR DAY AND NEW BEGINNINGS
One more to go at Neyland Stadium in 2023
How quickly this time of year arrives.
Saturday’s season finale is a reminder of how short a college football season can be.
And for some, how quickly a college career can come and go.
Tennessee will host Senior Day at Neyland Stadium on Saturday as the Vols prepare to play Vanderbilt.
⏰ 3:30 p.m. ET
📺 SEC Network
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal / WIVK
The quality of this season will be debated by Tennessee fans for several months.
This season was a success considering the players Tennessee had to replace last offseason.
This season was a disappointment considering the high hopes in August.
Both opinions come with valid reasons.
But this Saturday is about finishing strong.
Both with an overall 8-4 record and a chance to get the taste of the last two weeks out of everyone’s mouths.
Tennessee also has a chance at a solid bowl.
The Vols are in play for the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
Tennessee needs to win Saturday to make that happen.
The Vols also can’t afford a loss to Vanderbilt.
Toss out any feeling of success this season if the Commodores pull off the upset.
This is a bad Vanderbilt team.
Vandy has a 2-9 record and has lost all seven SEC games by an average of 22.5 points.
Tennessee is favored by 27 points and should win easily.
That’s why Tennessee has a chance to finish strong.
Seniors can have a positive feeling from their last game at Neyland Stadium — to go along with memories of success from the last few seasons.
A bunch of seniors have a chance to return next year thanks to extra eligibility from the 2020 COVID season.
It’s unknown who will come back right now, but a few players on the offensive and defensive lines are candidates.
Saturday could also offer a glimpse at Tennessee’s transition into the future.
Joe Milton III will start on Saturday. But will he play the whole game?
Freshman Nico Iamaleava has secured a redshirt and can play as much as he wants on Saturday.
A lot of people — fans, coaches, teammates, and media — are eager to see more of what Iamaleava can do.
Assuming he plays Saturday, let’s be careful about overreacting to whatever he does this week.
(Remember the off-season reaction to the Orange Bowl?)
But that doesn’t mean fans can’t get excited about the future with Nico and several of his 2023 classmates.
Maybe that’s what Saturday should be about.
A celebration of the accomplishments of Tennessee’s seniors who are moving on… and a turning of the page to players tasked with winning more games in the future.
Everyone can get behind that.
THE NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL
‘Tis the season…. to go shopping in the transfer portal.
Every team in the country, Tennessee included, will be busy figuring out their rosters for next year.
Who’s staying? Who might decide to leave? And who’s available?
Oh, and how much will they cost?
Pete Nakos of On3 shared some dollar figures related to how much it will cost to land impact players on the offensive and defensive lines in the transfer portal.
On3 was told this spring the going rate for a starting OT/DL could start as low as $75K to $125K annually.
For an elite EDGE rusher, the starting price jumps to $200K and easily reach $300K. All those numbers are before an athlete/agent starts pitting schools against each other.… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
— Pete Nakos (@PeteNakos_)
Nov 21, 2023
Supply and demand.
That tweet is referring to NIL dollars, of course.
But you might refer to it as buying or renting players.
That’s how Wake Forest described Notre Dame landing QB Sam Hartman, who spent the previous five seasons playing at Wake Forest.
Late in last week’s game when Wake was playing at Notre Dame, the school played a video with the song “I Will Always Love You” for Hartman as he exited the field.
Clawson can’t be the only coach who feels this way.
Some people like it, some don’t, and others are indifferent.
But there is a price to being competitive in college football.
Some schools are better equipped to handle the new landscape than others.
Tennessee looks to be in good shape thanks to Spyre Sports.
Remember: this isn’t necessarily about gaining a big edge against the competition.
It’s about remaining competitive in college football.
Tennessee will be active in the portal.
The Vols need help at several positions, including on the lines of scrimmage and at several positions on defense.
But every player that Tennessee targets as a difference-maker will be coveted by all of the Vols’ competitors.
Here’s how Duke coach Mike Elko described the upcoming transfer window:
The new college football, indeed.
🏈 Here’s the full schedule of college football games for the final weekend of the regular season.
🏈 The San Francisco 49ers look strong, setting up a big NFC showdown between SF and the Eagles.
🏈 Here are five things Tennessee Football should be thankful for this season.
🏈 Lincoln Riley denied NFL rumors and addressed what went wrong in a disastrous 7-5 season for USC.
🏀 Here are CBB Power Rankings from CBS — a look at some of the teams Tennessee will chase as the season goes along.
🎤 Dolly Parton rocked it at halftime during the Cowboys-Commanders game on Thanksgiving.
⚾ Here’s a look at one thing every MLB team should do this offseason, via ESPN+.
EARLY LESSONS FOR TENNESSEE HOOPS
Tennessee’s defense is still at a high level
Tennessee basketball team’s trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational could have gone better.
The Vols went 1-2 playing in Honolulu, beating Syracuse by 17 points before losing to Purdue and Kansas.
Before we get to some of the concerns, there are positives from the trip:
1️⃣ Tennessee tested itself against the nation’s best. Purdue, which won the tournament, and Kansas are legit national title contenders.
2️⃣ The committee will look favorably at Tennessee playing in those games, no matter the result.
3️⃣ Tennessee’s defense ranks No. 1 in the nation early in the season, according to KenPom.
Then there’s the offensive end of the floor.
The Vols had a tough time scoring against their top two opponents this week.
Tennessee found some quick offensive bursts but never could sustain runs.
Exciting transfer Dalton Knecht had a big first half against Purdue but nearly went scoreless in the second half.
The team as a whole struggled to shoot from behind the three-point line.
Perhaps part of the reason for shots not falling was the unknown of a neutral site court.
But guess where postseason games are played?
Tennessee has more offensive weapons to utilize than it did a year ago.
That also creates a need to build chemistry and find what works best.
Returning players like Josiah-Jordan Hames, Santiago Vescovi, and Zakai Zeigler have to share the ball more with other capable scorers.
Zeigler is also working his way back to full speed following his ACL rehab during the offseason.
Tennessee will be a better team in SEC play and remains a top contender (oddsmakers say the favorite) to win the conference.
We’ll get another look at Tennessee against a top-25 team this week.
The Vols will play against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Wednesday in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
Simply playing in these nonconference games will help the resume; winning a few of them would provide real value.
Win AT North Carolina and the mood will brighten following a disappointing Maui showing.
Lose this week and… well, no need to predict how that will affect the conversation.
THE BIG HATRED
Ryan Day (left) and Jim Harbaugh at a more amicable time | via On3
We’ve seen some big games between Michigan and Ohio State.
They don’t get much bigger than this one.
Michigan will host Ohio State — appropriately at The Big House — at noon on Saturday.
The winner will remain undefeated and go to the Big Ten Championship game playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The loser will have to hope for a playoff spot and deal with whatever fallout comes from the defeat.
Added to this rivalry matchup: neither side appears fond of the other.
Head coaches Ryan Day and Jim Harbaugh, who’s still suspended from Michigan’s sideline, had a chance to offer up statements of respect for one another this week.
The head coaches don’t like each other.
The fans definitely don’t care for the other side.
And the players recognize the magnitude of this game for those reasons and more.
Michigan is favored entering the game after winning the last two games against Ohio State.
Michigan has an “us against the world” mentality; Ohio State has revenge on its mind after losing at home by 22 points to the Wolverines last season.
We never know if a game will live up to the hype.
Here’s hoping this one does on Saturday.
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