The Tennessee Volunteers overcame a heartbreaking 3-4 start by winning their final 5 games. They then proceeded to destroy Northwestern in the Outback Bowl 45-6 to finish up at 9-4.
It marked the first time the Volunteers won more than 7 games since going 10-4 in 2007. That’s definitely something to be excited about. However, most Tennessee fans are left thinking what could have been.
The Volunteers four losses all came by a touchdown or less. They blew a 17-3 4th quarter lead in a 24-31 overtime loss to Oklahoma. They led Florida 27-14 in the 4th quarter, only to lose 27-28. They had a 14-point lead in a 20-24 loss to Arkansas. Lastly, they has a 14-13 lead late in the 4th quarter at Alabama before losing 14-19.
The good news is that Tennessee looks to be even stronger in 2016. The Volunteers will enter Butch Jones’ 4th year on the job with 17 returning starters. They are the favorites to win the SEC East and a legit national title contender.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/10||Virginia Tech (Bristol)|
|10/8||@ Texas A&M|
|10/29||@ South Carolina|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
The Volunteers will be tested early when they take on Virginia Tech. The game is technically on a neutral site, but will feel like a home game, as it’s in Bristol, Tennessee.
All signs point to a perfect 3-0 start outside of the conference, but things get interesting in a hurry. The Volunteers season will likely come down to how they do in their first 4 SEC games.
First they have to host Florida, who they have lost 11 straight against. The very next week they have to travel to Georgia, where the Bulldogs are 53-13 over the last 10 years.
Next up is a road game against what figures to be a much improved Texas A&M squad. This is also a bit of a trap game. They will have just played their top two threats in the East and have a monster game on deck at home against Alabama.
After hosting the Crimson Tide, the Volunteers will get a much needed bye. They should cruise the rest of the way. Three of their final five are at home and the two on the road are against Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
Tennessee near breakout performance in 2015 shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Jones has been stockpiling strong recruiting classes and the Volunteers had 18 returning starters.
Most of that talented young talent is back, as Tennessee returns 17 starters from last year.
The offense figures to be one of the best in the country. Last year the Volunteers put up 35.2 ppg and 422 ypg. A big jump from the 28.9 ppg and 371 ypg they averaged in 2014.
They get back 9 starters on offense, including star quarterback Joshua Dobbs. He can do it all. He completed 60% of his passes with 15 TDs to 5 INT’s and rushed for 671 yards and 11 scores.
Tennessee also gets back their dynamic duo at running back in Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. These two combined for 1,986 yards and 19 touchdowns. As a team they averaged 224 yards/game and 4.7 yards/carry on the ground.
Even with the loss of starting left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, the running will be just as strong. That’s because the other four starters up front are back. Plus, highly touted red-shirt freshman Drew Richmond is ready to take over for Kerbyson.
Tennessee does lose it’s leading receiver in Von Pearson, but everyone else is back. Dobbs really does a nice job of spreading the wealth. Pearson led the team with 39 catches, but 5 others had 22 or more receptions.
The defense also made strides last year. The Volunteers went from allowing 24.2 ppg in 2014 to giving up just 20.0 ppg in 2015. If Tennessee can stay healthy on this side, it has the makings of the best defense in the Jones era.
The only starter lost up front on the defensive line is defensive tackle Owen Williams. He will be replaced by two massive sophomores in Kahlil McKenzie (344 lbs) and Shy Tuttle (311 lbs). The leader up front will be junior defensive end Derek Barnett, who led the team with 10 sacks.
At linebacker they get back their two starts in Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Darrin Kirkland. Making them one of the best units not only in the SEC but the entire country.
If there’s a concern on this side of the ball, it’s the secondary. Most notably at safety, where both starters departed. The good news is they get back all their top corners, including stud Cameron Sutton. They also have a plethora of talent in the defensive backfield waiting for their chance to shine.
Regular Season Win Total
SEC East Odds
SEC Championship Odds
SEC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
2016 could very well mark the return of Tennessee as an elite power in the SEC. Not only are the Volunteers loaded for this season, but only 6 of the projected 22 starters are seniors.
A perfect 12-0 record is within reach, but the ultimate goal is to just make the playoffs. Something they can do by winning the SEC East and defeating whoever makes it out of the West.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that unfolded. While I have them winning the division and going 11-1, I have them losing to LSU in the SEC Championship.
While everyone will have the Alabama game circled, it’s the 3 games before that that will determine their fate. I actually have them beating Alabama at home, but losing on the road to either Georgia or Texas A&M.
Win Total Prediction