Sports fan buffet on tap

Friday, September 7, 2001 at 12:00am

This upcoming weekend may be a little bit more than the average sports fan can handle. We're down to the final days of the Major League baseball season. Fantastic races, especially in the National League. With no labor problems and good pennant races, it's been a super season for the boys of summer. Now comes the question, "Can anybody beat the Yankees?" I don't think so. It's still a pitchers game, and they've got the hosses.

Of course around these parts, football is still King. And the NFL is sure to grab the headlines this weekend with the opening of a new season. The Titans jump right into the frying pan Sunday night with a TV audience against a very strong Miami Dolphins team. There are many folks around the NFL who think the Dolphins are capable of going all the way to the Super Bowl. And perhaps even more who think the Titans have a chance to get there.

There are all kinds of good matchups this weekend in addition to Tennessee and Miami - Philadelphia and St. Louis is a very big game. I think all Tennessee fans are very aware of the Titans problems in the "red zone." They seem to move the ball very easily to the 20-yard line, but then more often than not, settle for field goals...an area where there must be improvement, and nobody knows that better than Jeff Fisher and his staff. That aspect of Tennessee's game will get a severe test this weekend because the Miami Dolphins bring to town a very salty defense. I know all Titans fans want to see the deep throw by McNair, but to be honest with you, you may not see many of those Sunday night. The Dolphins secondary, led by Sam Madison, has a tendency to pick those off and turn them into touchdowns. But hey, for us fans, try a couple anyway.

It's week 2 of the college football season, and it's very difficult to get a read on who's the real power in the country. Most of the top-ranked teams have opened with easily-won games. It would appear to me that the University of Miami has been the most impressive so far. Their lopsided win at Penn State has to get your attention. Here in the Southeastern Conference, everything seems to be going according to form. Tennessee opened with a 33-9 win over Syracuse, but the Vol fans left that stadium with their heads down, as though Syracuse had won the ballgame. Vol fans have grown accustomed to seeing great quarterbacks perform for the Orange and White. They did not see that Saturday in Knoxville. Casey Clausen was less than spectacular. And to add to their concern, he has had three bad games in a row now, going back to last year's Vanderbilt and Kansas State games. He obviously has a great deal of talent, but right now it seems to be a mental situation. They should win at Arkansas, assuming he has an average game. But unless he ups his quality of play at least 100%, they have no chance at all in Florida. Quarterback situation aside, the Vols appear to be very solid in every other aspect of the game.

I know Vanderbilt fans have made a great run on Prozac in the past week, and you have every right to. Just don't mix it with Jack Daniel's. Actually the outcome of that game came as no surprise to me. Middle Tennessee is an up-and-coming football team. And Vanderbilt is not. I know many Vanderbilt fans are howling for the scalp of Woody Widenhofer. Folks, a coaching change is not the answer. Believe me, I've covered all those press conferences for new coaches at Vanderbilt. I've seen good coaches come in with smiles on their faces and springs in their steps, only to walk out looking like they were attending their best friend's funeral. IT'S STILL ABOUT PLAYERS. I know this administration wants to win, but I'm sure previous administrations have had the desire to win. Cold hard fact is ... you're competing with 11 big universities with athletic department budgets that could run small South American countries. So if you're going to continue to operate status quo as far as admissions and curriculum and budgets are concerned, then why change the coach?!? You are not on a level playing field. Don't get me wrong, Vandy has some really good football players, and always has had. But where you may have 10 good ones, the other big boys will have 30 great ones.

Now I'm off to lovely Fayetteville, Arkansas. Can I bring you back a souvenir?

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