Fearless Forecast

Experience the Vols' season week by weekâ"right now!


by Tony Basilo This week's offering comes with a disclaimer. The following are the views from a guy so detail-oriented that he butchered a guest's name and affiliation on the air the day before penning this. I was reminded by Ivan Maisel of ESPN that his name is Ivan Ma-Zell and not Mi-Zell and that he works for ESPN and not Sports Illustrated . So take the following with a grain of salt knowing that I mean well. Well, what I mean is that this is a space-filler this week in Metro Pulse . They need a sports column. I'm out of glib lines and witty topics, so I stoop to giving you my annual fearless predictions.

Before I get too down on my 40-ish, atrophying self, it should be pointed out that last year in this space, it was predicted by yours truly that the Vols would finish 10-2 in the regular season and play in a New Years Day Bowl. Not a bad call when most thought the program was without a pulse after the 5-6 of '05. Welcome to 2007!

September 1, Tennessee opens on National Television @ Cal â“Berserkley.â” By opening kickoff, Tennessee will fall to a touchdown underdog, making this seemingly an easy wager. Tennessee catching seven on the road is as easy as Britney Spears on a lonely Friday night. Put 100 bucks on your â‘P' card if you're with the Ragsdale administration. Trust me. It's money well spent. Just don't bet on the Vols to win outright as Cal torches Tennessee's secondary for 310 passing yards in a 35-31 win. DeShawn Jackson has seven catches for 170 yards in a win. Erik Ainge has a huge night for himself in a valiant performance with 250 yards and three scores. Two of which went to newcomer Kenny O'Neal.

Tennessee takes their week-one momentum into the home opener with Southern Miss. The subdued crowd sleepwalks through the opening quarter before getting charged up as the Golden Eagles lead the Vols by 10 at halftime. With two players on their roster who have committed manslaughter and statutory rape, Southern Miss can play. Their slogan ought to be â“give us your poor-in-character for our huddle.â” The crowd comes to life and the Vols, behind two LaMarcus Coker touchdowns, rally for a 24-17 win. Coker returned after his indefinite suspension concluded after the Cal game.

Tennessee's SEC debut comes in the Swamp, with Erik Ainge looking for his first win over the Gators and Phillip Fulmer looking to avoid going 0-3 versus Urban (some call him Herban) Meyer. More importantly, the Vols need to conquer the young Gators to avoid a 1-2 start. Tim Tebow's legend continues to grow as he leads the Gators to a 24-10 win in the sweltering Swamp.

I don't acknowledge non-competitive games like Arkansas Stateâ"only to say, â“Man, does it feel good to get back to .500!â”

On Oct. 1, the Vols succumb to yet another neophyte QB as Georgia's Tim Stafford does the trick this time with 200 passing yards and another 75 on the ground. At 2-3, Phillip Fulmer's tenure at UT is officially in danger of coming to an end.

Thank Goodness for Mississippi Mistake on Oct. 13. At 3-3 UT has something to build on.

Bama fans liken Phillip Fulmer to the Evil One. They have their own dark-side dancer in the guy LSU fans have coined â“Nick Satan.â” Proud to say the forces of good triumph as a late Britton Colquitt field goal atones for two earlier misses and UT escapes Tuscaloosa with a 20-19 win. Vols improve to 4-3.

Staying with the celestial theme, God doesn't smile on St. Spurrier's Gamecocks on Oct. 27. Tennessee rolls 35-14 with Peyton Manning choosing to stay home this time.

Tennessee closes the season with wins over LaFayette, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to finish the regular season at 9-3. The Vols meet Ohio State in the Capitol One Bowl where the Buckeyes roll. With a 9-4 record, Rocky Top remains divided, while Phillip Fulmer remains employed.

Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM.   Visit www.tonybasilio.com for more information.


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