The Tennessee football hype train has gained a full head of steam as Butch Jones and company reeled in another top ten recruiting class this past year. For the first time in the better part of a decade, there are going to be some expectations attached this upcoming season. In order for the Volunteers to live up to these expectations there are four games that Tennessee must win.
Florida: The last time Tennessee beat Florida, a kid by the name of Erik Ainge led a victory charge in 2004. Ten football seasons have come and gone for the Volunteers, but a victory over the Gators has remained elusive. The Vols nearly ended the streak in Knoxville this past year, but a late Gator rally sent the Volunteers home with a 10-9 loss. 2015 is the year the Volunteers can finally end the losing streak. Tennessee will enter “The Swamp” this year as underdogs, but Florida is currently in the midst of a coaching change, and is devoid of a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Tennessee, on the other hand, returns virtually the same offense that came alive the last four games under the command of junior quarterback Josh Dobbs and freshman standout Jalen Hurd. The Vols must knock off Florida if they want to prove to the rest of the country that Tennessee football is truly back.
Georgia: The last two meetings against the Bulldogs have been nothing short of heartbreaking for the Volunteers as both losses have been from a combined six points. Offense has not been an issue for either of these teams over the past two meetings, as both teams averaged over thirty points per game. Defense, however, is a totally different story for Tennessee. This past year the Vols had no answer for all-world running back Todd Gurley as he rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns. While Gurley has gone on to the NFL draft, Georgia will have another dynamic running back group in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. If the Volunteers are going to pull off a win in Knoxville this year, an absolutely loaded defensive line is going to have to play up to its hype – otherwise these backs are going to have an absolute field day in Neyland Stadium. The advantage for Tennessee in this match up lies on the defensive side of the ball. Much like Florida, the Bulldogs haven’t named a starting quarterback. Brice Ramsey is the most likely option for the Bulldogs at this point, but he lacks a lot in meaningful game time. If the Vols can slow down Chubb and Michel, and force whichever Georgia quarterback to make plays with their arms, they stand a great chance at ending the five game losing streak to the Dawgs.
Missouri: Tennessee is 0-3 against Missouri since the Tigers entered the SEC. Mizzou is also the defending SEC East champion, two years running. As the old cliche goes: To be the best you have to beat the best. Many pundits and fans are picking UT to win the eastern division next year, but in order for that to happen they must beat Missouri. The Tigers are never a team loaded with four and five star talent all over the field. This is a team and coaching staff that goes out and gets guys that are underrated and overlooked. Missouri is always well coached. Butch Jones needs to go out and show that not only can he recruit, but that he can also out-coach other teams. The best way for Jones and his staff to do that would to be to knock off the Tigers on the road.
Edited by Cody McClure