Worst-Case Scenario for Tennessee in 2019
To answer that all-important question, we must start from the beginning and work our way through Tennessee’s non-conference schedule. Georgia State is a very low tier team and last season they finished with an abominable 2-10 record. It’s safe to say that an upset in the Volunteers opener would be completely unforeseen, and the odds of one occurring are near 0%. Regardless, the Volunteers should be starting the season off with a victory. The Volunteers 2nd game against BYU is a different story. I’ve been very vocal in my concern for the BYU game, they’re simply built like a kind of team that can give Tennessee problems. Teams with very high caliber offenses, that are capable of putting points on the board always seemed to give Tennessee problems last season, ever since the very beginning in Tennessee’s 40-14 loss to West Virginia. It would later happen again in UT’s blowout losses to Florida, Alabama, and Missouri. Nevertheless, even the most optimistic Vol fan would admit BYU can beat Tennessee, and in a worst-case scenario for UT, BYU would likely go down as a loss. Tennessee’s 3rd game of the season against Chattanooga is a very similar case to Georgia State. They are a lower level non-power 5 team that simply just don’t have the talent to compete with Tennessee. The final non-conference matchup for UT is a date with the UAB Blazers. Unlike others, I’m not as concerned about the Blazers as I was for BYU. UAB was a very good team last season, but even considering that exceptional season, they were unable to compete with a decent SEC team on the road in Texas A&M. Now that they have lost a big chunk of their talent from 2018, it would be hard to think they could come into Neyland Stadium and conquer the Vols. When it comes to the non-conference schedule, the worst-case scenario for Tennessee is probably 3-1.
Now that the non-conference is out of the way, projecting the worst-case scenario gets much more difficult. The Volunteers open their SEC schedule against bitter SEC East rivals Florida and Georgia. This one is pretty much obvious, at the very worst, Tennessee will definitely lose these 2 games. The talent gap between Tennessee and Georgia will be way too much to overcome, at least under a worst-case scenario. As for the annual rivalry game between the Vols and Gators, Florida’s Defensive Coordinator, Todd Grantham, is known for sending the blitz. Last year, that was too much for the Volunteers weak Offensive Line to handle, and one would have to think this would happen again if all went wrong. Two more games that the Volunteers are expected to be underdogs in are both on the road, against Alabama and Missouri. Alabama is pretty self-explanatory, as the talent gap is simply way too large for one to say a Tennessee upset is a realistic possibility. As for Missouri, they have blown out Tennessee both last season and in 2017. Similar to my reasoning for the BYU game, they are simply the definition for the type of team that gives us trouble, and it is very unlikely for a win to occur in this scenario. The final loss of our worst-case scenario is Mississippi State. Although, I do think Tennessee will end up coming out victorious in this game, it is still very much a tossup, which would mean Tennessee would lose in a worst-case scenario,
On the brighter side of things, the games against South Carolina, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are games I feel confident that Tennessee would win even in a worst-case scenario. Vanderbilt will have trouble winning against this Tennessee team in Neyland Stadium. Although they have done it before, it occurs very rarely. This season I think the Vols should get back to beating the Commodores, even in this scenario. As for Kentucky, we will have to look back at the history of the series. In the last 40 years, Kentucky has only beaten Tennessee 3 times. Until they can consistently beat Tennessee, I think it is a win. The final game we will discuss is South Carolina. If this game was taking place in Columbia, I would feel much differently. Despite Tennessee’s troubles with Will Muschamp, I just can’t see South Carolina beating Tennessee in Knoxville with the schedule they have, they should be exhausted by the time this game comes around.
With all of this taken into count, Tennessee’s worst-case scenario is 6-6. Tennessee is a team with a returning QB and a very easy schedule. A 6 win season and a Bowl Game, should be the minimum for Jeremy Pruitt in year 2 on Rocky Top.