February 28, 2024

Rocky Topics: Will Tennessee go bowling this year?

The Tennessee Volunteers (3-3, 0-3 SEC) has skated past its non-conference opponents this season, but can the Vols reach six wins in the back half of the schedule?

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

Tennessee's live mascot (Smokey the dog) takes a run through the end zone after Tennessee scores a touchdown during the Vols' game against Missouri in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016.

In this week’s edition of Rocky Topics, Caleb Souders and Seth Raborn debate whether or not Tennessee will reach a bowl game in 2017.

Raborn: Regardless of whether Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones is let go by the university, there is no way the Volunteers can reach six wins this year. The last time Tennessee scored a touchdown against an SEC opponent was more than five weeks ago against the Florida Gators. Tennessee’s offense has been helped by the dual-threat ability of starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, but there is no chance they can string together enough scoring drives to win three of the next six games. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the Tennessee defense aren’t the problem as they are under constant pressure from the inefficiency of the offense. There is only one “guaranteed” win over the next six games for the Vols. That comes against Southern Mississippi, who lost to Kentucky by just one touchdown and shutout two teams this season.

Souders: Seth, take a deep breath and put your orange glasses back on for me. The Volunteers are going to be just fine. Kentucky is the only SEC team Butch Jones is undefeated against in his tenure at Tennessee. If Jones remains the head coach for the Kentucky game, he will take care of business up in Lexington. Even if he does not remain the head coach at Tennessee, the interim coach, whoever that may be, will bring more energy. This would be the best-case scenario for the team, as the Volunteers have won five straight matchups versus the Wildcats.

Raborn: Tennessee’s next six games come against the following teams: Alabama, Kentucky, Southern Mississippi, Missouri, LSU and Vanderbilt. The Alabama game will be a bloodbath, the Vols travel to Lexington for a night game against an improved Kentucky team and Missouri’s offense will surely outscore the Tennessee offense. The LSU and Vanderbilt game are the only two that I am fully comfortable with, and the Vols have yet to prove their dominance in the rivalry against the Commodores lately. Again, regardless of whether or not Butch Jones sticks around for the back-half of the schedule, Tennessee will struggle to reach a bowl this season. The only hope for the orange-and-white is if the players receive a confidence, and morale boost from the emergence of an interim head coach

Souders: With Jarrett Guarantano at the helm, I have no doubt the Vols can squeak out three wins in the next six games. Southern Mississippi and Missouri can be chalked up for automatic wins in my book. Kentucky simply cannot win big games against rival opponents that hold streaks over its head. The Wildcats lost their chance to snap a 30-game win streak this season against Florida as they gave up two wide-open touchdowns in the game. I would count on Kentucky making a big-time blunder at some point in the game.

With Tennessee likely having an interim head coach with nothing to lose, I would assume the Volunteers will be stretching the field vertically — which is something they have failed to do this season under Butch Jones. As for LSU, I would not chalk them up to an automatic win. LSU has big wins this season over Florida and Auburn, so don’t count Ed Orgeron out yet. Even with wins over Southern Mississippi, Missouri and Kentucky, a win over LSU could give Tennessee the opportunity for seven wins on the season.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Edited by Ben McKee

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