Posted by Adam Jacobi
Tennessee's bowl hopes took a hit this week with the announcement that QB Tyler Bray will miss most, if not all, of the rest of the regular season. Bray suffered a broken thumb in the 4th quarter of the Vols' 20-12 loss to Georgia on Saturday, and according to RapidReporter Daniel Lewis, the team expects Bray to miss six weeks with the injury.
The injury puts a halt to what had begun as a brilliant sophomore campaign for the Vols' signal-caller; Bray is currently ranked 11th in the nation in passing efficiency, having thrown for 1579 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions on 116-176 passing for the year.
Matt Simms came on in relief of Bray during Saturday's loss, and he wasn't bad; coming into the game cold with the ball on Georgia's 23 yard line, Simms kept the touchdown drive going -- even converting a first down after an intenional grounding penalty gave Tennessee a 2nd and 25. At the same time, it took Simms seven plays to get those 23 yards. Yes, that's a small sample size, but we're still not talking about a great deal of efficiency here.
If the six-week figure is accurate, that means Bray won't be healthy until the season finale, when Tennessee travels to Kentucky with what might well be bowl eligibility on the line. Tennessee is 3-2 right now, and it's unlikely (though not impossible) that the Vols get any wins out of the upcoming stretch of LSU, @Alabama, and South Carolina. If Bray's under center, perhaps that changes, but he won't be. At an rate, if Tennessee loses its next three, it's 3-5, and needing to get three wins out of Middle Tennesse State, @Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and the aforementioned @Kentucky. That's certainly doable, but it's going to be at least incrementally more difficult with Simms at QB until Simms proves otherwise.
So while it's pretty much a dead lock that Bray can return in time to lead Tennessee in its bowl game, it's also going to be up to Matt Simms to get the Vols there in the first place.