Last month, 5Dimes released season win totals, and Tennessee's regular season win total ("over/under") was set at 7.5, with juice of -140 on the over and +100 on the under. We wrote then about how Vegas wasn't buying the Tennessee hype (and if you're confused about how these lines work, there is further explanation there). And indeed, their number suggested a record under .500 in what many see as Tennessee's six swing games: Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri, many of which are games the fans expect to win.
This month, things look quite a bit different. 5Dimes has released preseason lines for most of the major contests in the first five weeks of the season--which includes four Tennessee games--and their outlook on the Vols is quite a bit rosier. The regular season win total is still at 7.5, but the juice on the over has moved from -140 to -175, meaning that a hypothetical bettor would need to risk $17.50 in order to win just $10 on the Vols' over. Put differently, it means that Tennessee is favored to win eight or more regular season games by about the same margin that Texas A&M is favored to beat Arizona State in their season opener in Houston.
The lines on the games themselves look even more positive from a Tennessee perspective. While a season win total of 7.5 suggests a 2-4 or 3-3 record should be expected against Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri, it now looks safe to say that Tennessee will be favored in the majority of those contests. Lines are out on the Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas games, and Tennessee is favored in all three. The Vols open as three-point favorites against the Sooners, four-point favorites against the Gators, and 1.5-point favorites against the Razorbacks.
Tennessee is also favored by 24.5 in their season opener against Bowling Green in Nashville and will presumably be heavy favorites in week three against Western Carolina, meaning that the Vols are currently expected to win each of their first five games of the season. Of course, Tennessee is favored by less than a touchdown in three of those games, so a 5-0 start is not to be expected--just like you wouldn't expect to roll a three or higher three times in a row on a six-sided fair die--but the external perception of Tennessee continues to rise throughout the offseason, and a 4-1 start would be completely in-line with expectations, even expectations outside of Knoxville. And if the Vols can start 4-1, they could hit eight merely by beating North Texas and the three SEC East foes they vanquished last year: Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt.
Based on past years, we expect to see preseason lines set for contests against Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri before the summer is out, and that will clarify outside expectations further. So keep an eye out for future articles about Tennessee's chances to win eight (or even nine) for the first time since 2007. But for now, optimism abounds for the fans in orange.