Of course, if his pants blind all of Tennessee's opponents, that could also turn out well for the Vols.
Part of an effort to catch up after travel
For those of you not familiar with the financial term, a "high beta" stock is (simply put) one that can go way up or way down. The sky's the limit if the stock does well, and the canny investor can make a lot of money. Of course, if the stock goes down, the bottom is likely to drop out of things -- and your personal finances will end up looking a lot like Greece.
Which brings us to Tennessee and Texas A&M. To me, these are two of the highest beta college football teams in the SEC this fall. If things come together, the Vols and the Aggies could wildly exceed expectations -- with the outside chance that Tennessee could even end up in the Georgia Dome in early December. (Texas A&M is still in the same division with LSU, Alabama and Arkansas, so let's not get ahead of ourselves here.)
Tennessee is perhaps the most puzzling of these teams. There are so many ifs that, if they go the right way, the Vols are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year. If Tyler Bray stays healthy, and if he continues his progress, and if Justin Hunter can stay healthy, and if Hunter was as good as he looked over the first three games, and if Da'Rick Rogers can have another huge season, and if the Vols can find a running game -- look out.
But again, those are a lot of ifs. Hunter is probably Tennessee's best wide receiver -- but we're basing that on 16 catches in 2010 and games against Montana and Cincinnati and a partial game against Florida in 2011. That's not exactly a huge sample size.
And so what if the Vols split their ifs -- or what if they lose out on a lot of them? What if Bray isn't 100 percent or Hunter disappears in big games or the running game continues to struggle and defenses can lock down on both Hunter and Rogers? Those kinds of factors could end up with the Vols looking up at everyone except Kentucky ... or even looking up at Kentucky.
That's what makes them so hard to figure out.
What causes Texas A&M to be a puzzle is that we don't know them. Not just the "we" in the masthead of this site, either -- the "we" in the SEC don't know them. Defenses will have to figure out how their offense works, offenses will have to figure out how their defense works. Which would be enough on its own if Texas A&M were keeping the same head coach during the transition -- but they are instead bringing in Kevin Sumlin and adding an additional element of uncertainty to the mix.
That can also backfire. If Sumlin's schemes aren't running like clockwork, SEC defenses could spend the first year teeing off on the Aggies' offense and destroying the team's confidence.
So if the "could be" looks a little bit broad for one or both teams, it's probably even broader than that. Both of these teams could be really good if fans' hopes are realized. But the job of forecaster is to deal with the best guess and not the best hope, so here we go.
Place: 6th in the SEC East
Record: 5-7, 1-7 SEC
Could be: 3-9 to 8-4
Best chance for an upset: at SOUTH CAROLINA
8.31.12 | vs. N.C. STATE (Atlanta) | POSSIBLE WIN
9.8.12 | GEORGIA STATE | WIN
9.15.12 | FLORIDA | POSSIBLE LOSS
9.22.12 | AKRON | WIN
9.29.12 | at GEORGIA | PROBABLE LOSS
10.13.12 | at MISSISSIPPI STATE | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.20.12 | ALABAMA | LIKELY LOSS
10.27.12 | at SOUTH CAROLINA | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.3.12 | TROY | LIKELY WIN
11.10.12 | MISSOURI | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.17.12 | at VANDERBILT | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.24.12 | KENTUCKY | PROBABLE WIN
Place: 6th in the SEC West
Record: 6-6, 2-6 SEC
Could be: 3-9 to 7-5
Best chance for an upset (besides the obvious): MISSOURI
Bowl: None (ineligible because of two wins against FCS)
8.30.12 | at LOUISIANA TECH | LIKELY WIN
9.8.12 | FLORIDA | POSSIBLE WIN
9.15.12 | at SMU | PROBABLE WIN
9.22.12 | SOUTH CAROLINA STATE | WIN
9.29.12 | ARKANSAS | PROBABLE LOSS
10.6.12 | at OLE MISS | POSSIBLE WIN
10.20.12 | LSU | LIKELY LOSS
10.27.12 | at AUBURN | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.3.12 | at MISSISSIPPI STATE | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.10.12 | at ALABAMA | LIKELY LOSS
11.17.12 | SAM HOUSTON STATE | WIN
11.24.12 | MISSOURI | POSSIBLE LOSS
Key (from least likely to win to most): Loss, Likely Loss, Probably Loss, Possible Loss, Possible Win, Probable Win, Likely Win, Win