It’s a safe bet that when Martin Scorsese attaches his name to a project, Academy Award expectations are high. Imagine the expectations he deals with to replicate the success of classics like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” The pressure must be immense.
The college football equivalent of an Oscar — a College Football Playoff national title — is the ultimate goal this time of year, and the Tennessee Volunteers, like it or not, are in the early conversation.
According to Bovada, the Vols are 14-1 favorites to win the national championship next year, only Ohio State and Alabama (7-1), along with Clemson and Michigan (7.5-1), have better odds. Oklahoma and LSU share the 14-1 perch with Tennessee.
That’s only seven teams. Feeling pressure, yet?
While coach Butch Jones has ushered this new era of promise along Rocky Top, his quarterback gives this Frankenstein-like, come-to-life creation legs. And Joshua Dobbs has lofty expectations to deal with, too.
While somewhat of a darkhorse at 16-1 with 11 players ranked ahead of him, Dobbs’ name has been embodied in Heisman hype. The Tennessee Journalist, the official website for the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media, recently published an article asking “Can Josh Dobbs win the Heisman?”
How about now … feeling pressure?
Forget about trying to stay behind the scenes or sneak up on opponents, Tennessee’s football team, with Dobbs at the helm, will enter the 2016 campaign with wrecking-ball force. That’s fine, though; Dobbs is the perfect quarterback to deal with the Vols’ lofty expectations.
At SEC Media Days prior to the 2015 season, Jones called Dobbs the CEO of the football program, a player “who owns the team, who owns the offense, that can solve problems on his own, that can provide the leadership and stability that you expect from that position.”
Dobbs rebounded from four excruciating 2015 losses — two to teams that would eventually become Playoff squads, and all four by a combined 17 points — and not only led Tennessee to six consecutive wins to close out the season, but enjoyed a 61.4 percent completion rate, 4.2 points better than his previous seven games.
Expect the Tennessee senior to prove he’s learned from those losses and show the moxie needed to maintain late leads — the Vols blew three 13-point-or-better leads and lost two games when they were ahead in the fourth quarter. (but why? Why do you expect him to do this? A validation through something showing is crucial here. Are you saying that it’s because of the hard-knocks experiences he’s had, which offered statistical growth?
In addition to the knowledge gained from hard-knocks experiences last season, Dobbs also offered statistical growth that could be replicated.
While increasing his attempts from 177 in his sophomore season to 344 in 2015, Dobbs improved from nine passing touchdowns to 15. At the same time his touchdown-to-completion ratio remained static (13.6 in 2014; 13.7 in 2015). That screams an ability to improve his scoring numbers through the air in 2016 with more completions, and that’s where that second-half improvement last season added to further offseason growth comes into play.
The almost-there mentality in Knoxville can be a double-edged sword. It’s great to be in the conversation, but too much time spent waiting in the wings might cripple the program’s momentum.
Dobbs can not only handle the great expectations laid upon the Vols over the last month, but can push Tennessee over the almost-there hump that it’s currently too-slowly crawling up.