The Tennessee Volunteers are currently in a bye week after dropping three consecutive games by over 20 points each, putting the team at a struggling 2-3. It’s an off-week that the team doesn’t necessarily deserve but needs.
According to 247sports, when asked how much the Volunteers have focused on their upcoming opponent next week, the Arkansas Razorbacks, head coach Jeremy Pruitt offered, “We’ve worked very little on Arkansas, if any. We’re working on Tennessee. We’ve got to fix us before we start worrying about somebody else.” That’s one point the ball coach and I agree on.
I decided to take a look at how Tennessee has fared after bye weeks with Pruitt at the helm. Be warned: We’re working with small sample sizes here. This is Pruitt’s third season in Knoxville, and any given college football schedule consists of one, maybe two, bye weeks in a season. But in a season that many are beginning to consider lost, any silver lining might be worth exploring.
In Pruitt’s first season, the Volunteers went 5-7, or one win better than the Butch Jones/Brady Hoke tandem a year prior. The first bye week under Pruitt yielded positive results. Tennessee headed down south to take on the 21st ranked Auburn Tigers, a team that would ultimately go 8-5 on the season.
That was a game where Jarrett Guarantano went 21-for-32 for 328 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. His counterpart, Jarrett Stidham posted similar numbers, but had two interceptions lingering on his line. Ty Chandler and Jajuan Jennings added a receiving touchdown each, while the latter picked up 71 yards in the air; Josh Palmer added 84 receiving yards. Bryce Thompson and Jonathan Kongbo were the two intercepting parties. The mixture of the aforementioned bred the right circumstances for the Vols to one home in the win column.
Bye week record: 1-0
Last season, Tennessee had two bye weeks built into their schedule. The first one came after a 34-3 loss in Gainseville against the (9) Florida Gators before taking on the third ranked Georgia Bulldogs at home. Heading into the Georgia game, Tennessee was 1-3 and floundering, with losses against Georgia State and BYU in addition to that Gator thrashing.
The bye week didn’t do much for the Vols against one of the most potent teams in the land, as they went onto drop the game, 43-14. Brian Maurer did most of the quarterbacking in that one, completing half of his 28 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on his ledger. Meanwhile, Jake Fromm completed 82 percent of his passes, resulting in two touchdowns and no turnovers. Jennings and Marquez Callaway each had over 100 receiving yards in that one, each contributing one touchdown.
Bye week record: 1-1
The second bye of the season came before a November 23 tilt in Columbia, Missouri, against the Tigers. Mizzou ended up being a decent, not great, 6-6 on the season. The Vols earned a 24-20 victory in a close one, a win which came in the middle of six consecutive victories to close out the 2019 campaign. Guarantano threw for 415 yards, two touchdowns, and didn’t throw an interception. Jennings, Callaway, and Palmer all contributed over 100 yards for the Vol cause. This game helped prolong the high Tennessee fans were on en route to a Gator Bowl win over the Indiana Hoosiers.
Bye week record: 2-1
As I stated in the beginning, we’re not working with much data here, but Tennessee has gone 2-1 in games that come at the conclusion of a bye week in the Pruitt era. Now the Volunteers are prepping to enter game week after their only bye of the season against a 2-2 Arkansas team. Their losses came against Georgia and at Auburn, while their wins were at Mississippi State and against Ole Miss. They play at Texas A&M Saturday, giving Tennessee a bit more material to use for prep against them heading into November 7.
Alas, despite the small sample, the Vols have been more bullish after bye weeks and less bearish, in financial terms, over the last two season. We’ll have to wait and see if that trends holds steady moving into next week. The first half of the season is done. Let’s turn our collective attention to the second half and hope for better results.