4. Win every non-Power Five game plus Vanderbilt and South Carolina
This is an absolute must for Tennessee football. The Vols’ three non-Power Five opponents this year are the Bowling Green Falcons, Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and South Alabama Jaguars. BGSU and TTU have failed to have winning seasons under their current head coaches, and South Alabama has never had a winning season in FBS play.
Add in the fact that all three games are in Knoxville, and there’s no reason for the Vols to lose any of these games. They got a great draw in non-conference play Josh Heupel’s first year, and it was desperately needed given everything facing the program.
In terms of SEC play, the Vols beat both the Vanderbilt Commodores and South Carolina Gamecocks last year on the road. They finished ahead of them in SEC play as well despite their 3-7 record. This year, like UT, Vandy and USC have new head coaches in Clark Lea and Shane Beamer respectively, and they have to play the Vols in Knoxville.
Simply put, there’s no reason for Rocky Top to lose either game. These five games are a baseline for the Vols. If they fail to win any of them, then the season could go a lot worse than initially expected. Heupel needs a splash first year. Winning these games is key to that.