Tennessee finished up 7-6 in 2014 to secure their first winning season since 2009. Their 3-5 record inside the SEC may not seem like anything to get excited about, but it was a promising sign for a team that had gone just 4-20 over the previous 3 years. To top it off, the Volunteers captured their first bowl win since 2007 with a dominant 45-28 victory over Iowa in the Tax Slayer Bowl.

What makes the improvement even more impressive is the fact that Tennessee had just 10 returning starters from 2013 and not a single one of those came on the offensive or defensive lines. Not to mention they had to play both Alabama and Ole Miss out of the West.

Needless to say, with 18 returning starters (most in the SEC) there’s a lot of optimism in Knoxville for what will be the 3rd year under head coach Butch Jones.

Last Season
SEC (East)
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
3-5 (T-4th)
7-6
7-6
6-6
28.9
24.2
Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/5 Bowling Green (Nashville)
-23.5
1
9/12 Oklahoma
-3
.57
9/19 Western Carolina
-35
1
9/26 @ Florida
-4
.62
10/3 Arkansas
-1.5
.52
10/10 Georgia
PK
.50
10/24 @ Alabama
+9
.25
10/31 @ Kentucky
-6
.66
11/7 South Carolina
-10
.77
11/14 North Texas
-28
1
11/21 @ Missouri
+2.5
.46
11/28 Vanderbilt
-20
1
Estimated Wins: 8.35

*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread

Roster Breakdown

Last year the Volunteers opened the season with senior Justin Worley at quarterback, but sophomore Joshua Dobbs eventually took over and ended up starting the final 5. Tennessee went an impressive 4-1 in those 5 starts by Dobbs, with the only loss coming at home to No. 19 Missouri 21-29.

Dobbs completed 63.3% of his pass attempts for 1,206 (only 373 fewer than Worley had in 2 less starts) with 9 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. The hope is that he will continue to mature as a passer, while continuing to torment defenses with his legs. Dobbs had a team-high 8 rushing touchdowns and was second on the team with 469 yards on the ground. He showcased his potential with a school-record 166 yards rushing by a quarterback in the Volunteers 45-42 overtime win at South Carolina.

The leading rusher for Tennessee in 2014 was true freshman Jalen Hurd, who had 899 yards and 5 touchdowns (only 9 starts). Hurd figures to be a focal point again in 2015, but will likely split some carries with junior college transfer Alvin Kamara, who originally signed with Alabama back in 2013.

Add in what Dobbs can do on the ground and the fact that Tennessee has 4 of their 5 starters back on the offense line, the ground game figures to put up some impressive numbers this season.

The Volunteers also have a ton of experience and talent returning in the receiving corps, though it’s still uncertain if senior Von Pearson will be included in the mix (suspended at the moment). With or without Pearson the unit should be exciting to watch, as he would be the only one of their top 9 in receptions from last year to not be back.

The good news in Knoxville is there’s just as much excitement surround the defense as there is the offense. The Volunteers have 8 of 11 starters back with the only real significant loss being senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson.

With any good defense, you have to be strong up front and Tennessee certainly appears to fit that mold. On the defensive line they have one of the more electric young players in the SEC in sophomore defensive end Derek Barnett, who was 2nd-Team All-SEC as a true freshman (72 tackles, 10 sacks). While they also get back starting LEO Corey Vereen and nose guard Danny O’Brien, a lot of eyes will be on true freshman Kahlil Mckenzie, who is expected to step in and start right away.

Losing a player of Johnson’s caliber (3 straight seasons with 100+ tackles, #2 all-time) isn’t easy to replace, but it’s a lot easier when you have two big time talents back on the outside in senior Curt Maggitt and junior Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

More talent returns in the secondary, where the Volunteers have one of the best corners (Cameron Sutton) and safeties (LaDarrell McNeil) in the SEC. Overall they have 7 of their top 8 contributors back from last year and should not only be one of the best secondaries in the SEC but one of the Top 20 in the entire country.

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
7.5
+1000
+260
N/A
+6800
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes

*Odds updated live on our college football odds page

Season Predictions

As you can see by my prediction on Tennessee to win the SEC East, I’m big on the Volunteers in 2015. Lately there’s been a team from the SEC that comes out of no where to surprise and I think Tennessee has an excellent shot at doing just that. They remind me a lot of TCU last year, who keep in mind were just 4-8 in 2013 before nearly making the playoffs.

If you have been following the Volunteers since Jones took over prior to the 2013 campaign, you know that he’s been stockpiling on talent. Keep in mind that Tennessee had the No.5 ranked recruiting class in 2014. A lot of those young players were a key part of last year’s surprising season and I believe they are ready to take that next step in the wide open SEC East.

While the Volunteers get another tough draw with Alabama and Arkansas out of the West, they get the more winnable game against the Razorbacks at home. They also get Georgia at home, as well as their tough non-conference clash against Oklahoma. I have the Volunteers losing at Alabama and Missouri, while running the table in the rest of their games to go 10-2 and easily surpass their win total of 7.5.

2015 Projections
SEC (East)
SEC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
1st
6-2
10-2
OVER 7.5

 

I asked some more experts on Tennessee football what they thought about the Vols’s upcoming season. Here’s what they had to say.

shively

Brandon Shively
GameDayInsiders.com

OVER 7.5 Wins – I can easily see the Tennessee Vols exceeding their expected season total of 7.5 wins. The offensive line returns intact and so does QB Joshua Dobbs who flourished last season after getting the starting position. The Vols might have the most talented receivers in the SEC and now have two big time running backs in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, an Alabama transfer. The Vols defense is stout with Barnett, Maggitt, and Cam Sutton who is one of the best corners in the SEC. I look for the Vols defense to create havoc, force turnovers, and give the offense great field position to score points. They have winnable road games at Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri. They do play Alabama on the road, but the Vols will be playing with a week of rest while ‘Bama will be coming off a tough game at Texas A&M. I think the Vols have a potential to upset the Tide this season and win the SEC East. At current odds at +1000, I will be placing a small wager on the Vols to win the East, and a larger wager on them to go OVER 7.5 wins.

asa

ASA
ASAWins.com

OVER 7.5 Wins – The Vols have gotten steadily better under head coach Butch Jones. In year one he was 2-6 in the SEC and last year he was 3-5. This year we think a +.500 mark in the league is very realistic which would put this team over this 7.5 win total. They return 18 starters which is more than anyone in the SEC. That includes QB Dobbs who turned the Vols season around when he was inserted as a started on October 25th vs Alabama. Once UT went to Dobbs, they went 4-2 down the stretch including a bowl victory over Iowa. He will operate behind an experienced offensive line with his two top RB’s returning and ALL of his receivers. This offense averaged 29 PPG last year and we expect that to go up in 2015. The defense was fairly solid (24 PPG allowed) and they bring back 7 of their top 9 tacklers. The only games we see them being definite underdogs would be at Alabama and at Missouri. They a few pick-em type games vs Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas but three of those four are in Knoxville. We have a feeling Butch Jones keeps this program moving upward and they pick up at least eight wins this season.

sean higgs

Sean Higgs
SeanHiggsWins.com

OVER 7.5 Wins – I like this Vols squad. I am a Butch Jones fan. Tennessee brings back 10 offensive starters and 8 more on the defensive side of the ball. They are coming off a winning year since 2009. Their offense should be on the of the better ones in the SEC led by Josh Dobbs. The defense will be what makes this team a SEC East Champion, or an also-ran. Vols need to end some losing streaks to Georgia and Florida if they are to be taken seriously. The talent is there, and I do see them in some early Top 25 lists.

seth norris

Seth Norris
AllForTennessee.com

OVER 7.5 Wins – This team returns virtually every starter on both sides of the ball. Depth is a concern with this squad, but with the talent that is in place the Vols should get no less than 8 wins. Joshua Dobbs is the returning starting quarterback and demonstrated in wins over South Carolina and Iowa what this offense can be with him at the helm. The defensive side returns first round talent like cornerback Cam Sutton and defensive end Derek Barnett. Assuming the Vols stay healthy, there is no question they can compete for the SEC East title.

SEC Mike

Michael W. Bratton
SECMike.com

OVER 7.5 Wins – Tennessee is a team on the rise in the East and I expect them to win eight games despite a rugged schedule. The main concern I have is any significant injury at either quarterback or running back, which can truthfully be said about most teams but would be absolutely devastating to a Tennessee team that lacks literally any college experience behind Dobbs and the halfback duo of Hurd and Kamara. While the Vols will once again be among the youngest teams in the nation, as nearly every key player is either a sophomore or junior, Butch Jones has done an excellent job of landing elite talent as well as developing less heralded prospects into solid SEC players. Tennessee will also benefit from not relying on true freshmen to carry the team this year, but instead to reinforce the roster. The defense’s main weakness last season were the interior of the defense, helped by the addition of two elite DT signees, and depth, which looks to be aided by a top 5 recruiting class. If Tennessee loses to Oklahoma, a team that beat them by 24 last season, and Florida, a team that has beat them 10 consecutive times, they’ll have to win six of their final eight to go over. So you should know in the first four weeks of the season if Tennessee lives up to the hype. As the Vols currently sit at -250 for the over, I don’t like the moneyline investment with the risk of injury and the unpredictability of youth expected to see the field in 2015.

Jack Jones
BetFirm.com

OVER 7.5 – I fully expect the Volunteers to be one of the most improved teams in the country in 2015 in the win-loss column. I love what Butch Jones has done here in just two years on the job. The Vols finally found the perfect head coach for them, and the job he has done in recruiting to bring in boat loads of talent to Knoxville cannot be overstated.

I look for that recruiting to really pay dividends in 2015 as Jones welcomes back 18 returning starters and numerous very highly touted players among them. Josh Dobbs will build upon his 4-1 finish where he led the Vols to 45 or more points three times. With 10 returning starters, the offense should be on a whole new level now with him under center full-time. The defense made great strides last year and should only be better with eight starters back.

The only game the Vols will for sure be underdogs in this season comes at Alabama, but they get a bye week before that game and gave the Crimson Tide all they wanted last year. They draw Georgia at home, which I believe will be the game that decides the SEC East champion. As a result, I have the Vols going 10-2 overall and 6-2 within the conference to take down the division title. Their Vegas win total is only 7.5, so this is one of my strongest ‘over’ plays in 2015.

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