Vols should buy out Oklahoma

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Updated: January 7, 2014

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It’s time to be real.

Forget pride. Forget the cost. Forget a fun road trip.

Tennessee needs to buy out of next season’s Oklahoma game.

Sure, it stings a fan base’s pride to buy out of any game. That was readily evident when fans were in an uproar after the Vols bought out of the North Carolina game in 2010 for $750,000. It proved to be unwise as the Tar Heels struggled amid allegations of NCAA violations that led to player suspensions. UNC was certainly beatable, finishing the season 3-9.

There’s less doubt in this Oklahoma scenario. It looks way worse than North Carolina ever could have been. Oklahoma pounded Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. That’s the same Alabama team that beat the Vols 45-10 in 2013.

The Sooners won’t field the same team that hammered the Crimson Tide. There are some key losses. However, Oklahoma will field a much more talented roster than Tennessee, led by sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, who showed his star power against Bama last week.

UT has every reason to believe there are brighter days ahead. Chances are it will still be pretty dark next season. The Vols have to rebuild their defensive and offensive lines, have questions at running back, have yet to find a solid quarterback and have a secondary that was shaky in 2013. So is this the time to pack up the covered wagon and roll off to Norman?

Not buying out of the Oklahoma game is unfair to Butch Jones. He just finished 5-7 in his first season at UT. Another 5-7 season and Jones will feel the heat. Would that unfair given what Jones inherited? Absolutely. Does that matter in big-time college athletics. Nope.

Another 5-7 season and no bowl game would put added pressure on Jones in 2015. There’s no doubt that the Vols could be better given Jones’ improved discipline. However, the schedule isn’t doing him any favors.

Jones and the Vols start with Utah State and Arkansas State. Those teams were 9-5 and 8-5, respectively. They aren’t pushovers. The Vols might be favored but UT can’t just show up and expect to win.

Then, the Oklahoma game is scheduled before the Vols play at Georgia and host Florida. What are the chances the Vols sweep those games or even win two of three? Not good.

UT’s next game, Chattanooga, should be a sure-fire win. Then, there’s a trip to upstart Ole Miss before hosting Alabama and traveling to South Carolina. The Vols should be favored against Kentucky later in the month – if the season isn’t already off the rails. Missouri and Vanderbilt close out the season. Both teams have had recent success against UT.

A freshman class figures to bolster UT’s roster. The Vols’ 2014 class is ranked as one of the tops in the nation. But ready for Norman? No.

Within reason, forget about the cost of buying out of the Oklahoma game. It’s simply the right thing to do. Jones doesn’t deserve half of the challenges he’s had to face. Replacing a likely loss with a likely win is the least UT’s administration can do for him.

There will be other fun road trips. UT has the money. Now, it’s time for the Vols to swallow their pride.

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