You’re angry, sports fans in Tennessee, unless you’re purely interested in Tennessee football and the College Football Playoff.
Well, you may be angry about that as well, but don’t fret — the Vols are in very good position to be part of that field for the first time. More on that, and all the games that matter ahead, later. First, let’s talk about the team that is the biggest issue in this state’s sports universe right now, a team overwhelmingly picked to make the playoffs and said (by many, including yours truly) to be improved after a couple of key offseason acquisitions, ones that are interesting when you consider esport betting and those results.
If the Vols win out, how likely is it that they make the College Football Playoff? Which other potential one-loss teams do you see posing a threat to make the Playoff ahead of the Vols?
As said earlier, the Vols are in very good shape. I’ve got them with an 85 percent chance of getting in. I’m almost willing to go so far as to say that as long as TCU loses a game — and the Horned Frogs are at Texas on Saturday — the Vols (if they win out, as you said) are getting a spot. At this point I’m counting Georgia in. I’m counting the Michigan–Ohio State winner in. I’m counting Oregon in if it wins out from here to take the Pac-12 championship, and one-loss USC is the team it beats in the title game. That leaves a spot for the Vols. Two if the Pac-12 falters.
This season for the Vols (even including the L on Saturday against Georgia) has been awesome to follow, but I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that Josh Heupel’s big test will be next year — sustaining the momentum and replacing key guys. Who or what gives you the impression that Heupel will be able to keep improving the program in year three?
If he takes this team to the Playoff, Joey, and I believe he will, I’ll give him very little chance of improving on that in Year 3. That’s not realistic, not with Hendon Hooker and some tremendous receivers moving on to the NFL. And that’s OK. Can Tennessee maximize what this season means on the recruiting trail? Can the Vols win nine or 10 games next season and get to another good bowl game? Nothing is exactly linear. Nick Saban won it all in his third season at Alabama and lost three games and played in the Capital One Bowl in his fourth. There will be ups and downs. Heupel is ahead of schedule this season. That doesn’t mean 9-3 in his third season is redefined as behind schedule. My advice: Keep enjoying this team.