For this year to have a good outcome the Vols need to win almost all of games they at least have a decent shot at winning. This excludes Alabama, Georgia and probably Florida. The games they need to be concerned about are BYU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vandy. If they can at least split these matchups, then this could be a pretty good year. I’m going to go game by game and give you my opinion on each matchup.
The cougars are always an interesting game on any team’s schedule and if you overlook them then you can easily get beat just like they upset a top 10 Wisconsin team last year. I’m hopeful though that the overall talent advantage gives the Vols the upper hand here, along with this being the first game in Neyland Stadium history where alcohol will be sold which means it could be an even more intense environment.
Prediction: BYU 21 Vols 27
This could be the scariest game on this slate. Miss State comes in with one of the best defenses the Vols will see all year and who knows what the ceiling will be for Tommy Stevens and the Bulldog offense. But in my opinion, I’m not too terribly scared what they will look like on offense because of what the offense looked like last year. Joe Moorehead didn’t have an elite offense last year despite being known as an offensive guru and having an experienced QB in Nick Fitzgerald. I also think that this game being in Neyland will be a huge advantage for Tennessee.
Prediction: Mississippi State 20 Vols 23
I won’t lie, this game is huge for this team. Tennessee is 0-7 all-time vs Will Muschamp coached teams and each loss increasingly more painful than the last. Last year this was the one game the Vols lost where it seemed like they had a chance at winning late. The Gamecocks come in with experienced talent at D-Line and Jake Bentley is entering his senior season. I’m very hopeful though they won’t leave Knoxville with a win.
Prediction: South Carolina 24 Vols 27
Mark Stoops is coming off the best season since he’s been in Lexington. But even in his best year the Wildcats still lost to the Vols 24 to 7 in what was one of the highest moments of Tennessee’s season last year, and probably the lowest moment in Kentucky’s season. But the Cats lose their work horse running back Benny Snell and all SEC defensive tackle Josh Allen. Even with this game being in Lexington and Kentucky looking for revenge, I like Tennessee’s chances in this game.
Prediction: Vols 20 Kentucky 14
This game is probably the one I’m least optimistic about for the Vols. It’s on the road, Missouri has an experienced QB in Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant, and Barry Odom has always had an advantage over them. The Tigers beat the Vols handily in Knoxville last year and I’m not feeling great about it this year. I should mention that Missouri isn’t too experienced on defense and if things go their way the Vols could pull the upset.
Prediction: Vols 31 Missouri 35
If there’s one game Tennessee can’t afford to lose, it’s this one. Vandy currently has a three-game winning streak over the Vols and they haven’t been quite about it. As a fan who likes to go on Twitter and fight with opposing fans this is the first thing that gets thrown in my face. Vandy does have some of the best running backs in the conference but not much of a line to run behind. They are also replacing long time starter Kyle Shurmur who torched Tennessee last year in one of the most demoralizing losses I’ve ever witnessed. Their coming into Neyland and if Tennessee isn’t motivated then there’s something wrong with them, but I think they come out with a vengeance.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 14 Vols 34