On Thursday, CBS Sports ran a piece comparing on the field performance vs. preseason media predictions. As you may have guessed, Tennessee didn’t fare well.
Tennessee was named the “most overhyped” team of the past six years, finishing six spots worse in the division than projected by the media. Of course, this era features some of the worst of Tennessee football. That time period did feature some optimism, however, particularly entering the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Underperforming seasons there, coupled with a dreadful 2017 campaign have the Vols dead last on this list.
Here’s what CBS had to say.
(-6) The Volunteers rarely lived up to expectations under former coach Butch Jones, which is probably why he’s interning for Alabama coach Nick Saban rather than working for Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer in 2018. The Volunteers have only exceeded their expectation once since expansion -- the 2014 season when they finished fourth in the SEC East. Every other year, they have either met the expectation or fallen short -- punctuated by 2017, when they were expected to finish third but wound up in the cellar of the SEC East.
Tennessee edged out LSU and Arkansas at -5, along with South Carolina and Georgia at -4. Mississippi State ran away with the “underhyped” crown, coming in ten spots higher than the media projected.
What does all of this mean? It means the Vols failed to live up to their lofty expectations under Butch Jones. To his credit, Jones restored the talent in Knoxville. Those 2015 and 2016 season were the window, that group just wasn’t able to punch through. Heartbreaking losses to Florida, Alabama standout. Maddening defeats at the hands of Vanderbilt and South Carolina still hurt today.
The media and fans were rightfully optimistic about those teams, but injuries and general mismanagement on multiple levels doomed those season. Looking back, we probably should have seen 2017 coming, considering all of the departures.
Jeremy Pruitt is taking over from the lowest point in Tennessee football history. The Vols should be on the opposite end of this list going forward, at least until he can revive the program and get expectations back to where they once were.