9-4 to 10-3
Top 25 finish
While 3-9 is the worst case scenario for Tennessee football, the Vols could do as well as 10-3. This would mean they meet their projections in ESPN’s Football Power Index and also win their bowl game. But if they don’t they can settle for 9-4, and either will mean a top 25 finish.
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How do they get there? Well, it starts with winning against every team we’ve mentioned on the schedule so far. That includes sweeping their non-conference slate, including beating the BYU Cougars, and also beating the South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores and Mississippi State Bulldogs at home and then the Kentucky Wildcats on the road.
That combined with a bowl win is their best path to nine wins. But they have another path if they lose their bowl game. There is a chance they beat the Missouri Tigers on the road, and the ESPN FPI is projecting UT a slight favorite to win that game. It makes no sense, but given the FPI’s track record, it does make 9-3 in the regular season a very strong possibility.
And at that point, 10-3 is right on the table. Of course, another way the Vols could get to 9-3 is run the table in all their guaranteed wins and toss-up games and, instead of beating Mizzou, pull off the upset of the century against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Hey, as ESPN wrote back in June, the Dawgs and Vols will both be coming off bye weeks. And they will have had major games against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Florida Gators respectively. UT won’t beat Florida. But if UGA beats ND again, they could be highly overconfident heading into Knoxville, and that could spell disaster.
It’s not realistic to pick Tennessee football to upset Georgia AND beat Missouri. We give a chance to one or the other at that point, which is why 9-3 is the max accomplishment we have for the Vols in the regular season, and 10-3 is the top one overall. But hitting nine wins or better period with a top 25 finish is a best-case scenario this year on Rocky Top.