Well, it’s that time. After an offseason filled with staff changes, a new athletic director and no shortage of Butch Jones hot seat talk — we’ve arrived. The Tennessee Volunteers will open their 2017 campaign on Monday, September 4th in Atlanta. Talking season has come to an end, it’s time to play the games.
Before the games begin, we wanted to go on the record. Below you’ll see each member of our staff go on the record. We’ll predict wins and losses, a bowl game and why we think the way we do.
Record prediction: 8-4
Wins: Georgia Tech, Indiana State, UMass, Georgia, Southern Miss, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri
Losses: Florida, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina
Bowl: Liberty Bowl
I’ve honestly dreaded writing this. This season presents perhaps one of the biggest unknowns we’ve seen in the last decade of Tennessee football. We just don’t know what we’re going to get out of the Volunteers this year. Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano? Will the defensive line live up to their four and five star billing? Can the veteran secondary step up? What do they do without Darrin Kirkland Jr. (potentially)?
The season is going to come down to a handful of close games, as it usually does. I think Tennessee hangs with Florida, Georgia and maybe even LSU. But are they good enough to get over the hump and win those? They were able to beat Florida and Georgia last season, but can they do it again with new faces in the fold?
They’ve also got to win the games they’re supposed to — like South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Just going off what we’ve seen from the Butch Jones era so far, I’m saying they win one of those big games (Georgia) and lose one that they’re not supposed to (South Carolina).
Record prediction: 8-4
Wins: Georgia Tech, Indiana State, UMass, Georgia, Southern Miss, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt
Losses: Florida, Alabama, LSU, Missouri
Bowl: Belk Bowl
While I think Tennessee won’t be making plans for Atlanta in December, I believe 8 regular season wins with an opportunity for a 3rd straight 9 win season is a real possibility. While questions on both sides of the ball abound, the Vols draw a pretty good home schedule with Georgia and LSU coming to Knoxville in 2017.
While I see Tennessee getting off to a good start with a win over Georgia Tech and Indiana State, going to the Swamp (a place where Tennessee hasn’t won since 2003) is a tall order as is heading to Tuscaloosa on October 21st. Tennessee drawing Georgia at home helps their chances to pull off the victory in Neyland and beating the Dawgs for the third straight season. While I have Tennessee taking care of business versus South Carolina and Vanderbilt this season, I think they get upset on the road against Missouri in a classic trap game a week before LSU comes to town. I have the Vols getting 8 wins with a chance for 9th versus another ACC foe in the Belk Bowl in late December.
Record prediction: 9-3
Wins: Georgia Tech, Indiana State, Florida, UMass, South Carolina, Kentucky, Southern Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt
Losses: Georgia, Alabama, LSU
Bowl: Outback Bowl
So it’s finally here. After all the talk about what to expect from Tennessee in 2017 and the temperature of Butch Jones’s proverbial seat and who will play quarterback, it’s finally time to toss it all out the window and play football.
Tennessee has a talented team. I don’t think many people dispute that. Butch Jones also overhauled his coaching staff in the offseason, which in my view shows he realizes he might need to take a step back and hand over more duties to the other coaches.
If Tennessee’s unproven talent can handle the bright lights of the SEC, I think 2017 could very well be the best regular season record the Vols have achieved under Butch Jones. 2016 was filled with expectations and subsequent disappointment, so maybe it’s good Tennessee hasn’t been talked about as much heading into this season.
While my prediction has Tennessee losing three of its four biggest games of the year, I don’t think many people would have a problem with a 9-3 regular season and a second consecutive win against Florida. And if Tennessee can simply do what it failed to in the latter part of 2016 and win the games it’s supposed to - South Carolina, Vanderbilt, etc. - the floor for this team should really be eight wins.
I think Tennessee learns from its mistakes in 2016 and puts on a much better showing this year, culminating in a New Year’s Day bowl game in Tampa.
Record Prediction: 9-3
Wins: Georgia Tech, Indiana State, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Kentucky, Southern Miss, Missouri, LSU, Vanderbilt
Losses: Florida, Georgia, Alabama
Bowl: Liberty Bowl
Making predictions based off potential injuries is always a good way to play it safe, however, injuries are a part of the game and should not be taken into consideration when prognosticating success.
Maybe I am underestimating LSU, but the last time I checked they have an unproven head coach, an unproven quarterback, and a talented but unproven defense.
I don’t see us walking into The Swamp and winning a game with a growing quarterback and without Darrin Kirkland Jr. I also don’t see us taking down the two-headed monster in Georgia’s backfield and an improved Jacob Eason.
I still believe we have a shot in the dark against Alabama, but until we actually beat them, they will remain a thorn in our collective sides.
Butch Jones will also show that he learned from the devastating losses to the South Carolina and Vanderbilt in 2016. The Vols will take care of business this year against the lesser teams.
A 9-3 season would be a major triumph for the Vols, despite losing two crucial games to Florida and Georgia - which would most likely make it a full decade since UT reached Atlanta.
And while nine wins should merit a better bowl, I believe that a third place finish in the east would get us there.
However, 9-3 would also set the stage for an excellent 2018 recruiting class and help add to the foundation that Coach Jones finally has under his team. Not to mention it would show marked improvement for him in managing a team, the players, and expectations.
In a year full of questions, we should have plenty of answers by season’s end.