Tennessee football’s turning point under Josh Heupel could be at Kentucky

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel during a game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.Kns Tennessee Bowling Green Football
Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel during a game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.Kns Tennessee Bowling Green Football /

It is obvious that Tennessee football is moving in the right direction under Josh Heupel. The past couple of years seemed to be decline after decline, and a close loss early to the Pittsburgh Panthers had fans feeling the same way this year. It was just another down-spiraling year, part of a never-ending slump. At least that is what it felt like.

That lasted until the Vols played Florida. The first half made a believer out of Vol Nation. We all could see a spark in this team. However, those sparks had been shown in the past as well and amounted to nothing. Vol fans have trust issues and it’s hard to realize when they are actually moving forward or staying in the same place.

Then came the games after Florida. Tennessee football blew out the Missouri Tigers 62-24. They beat the South Carolina Gamecocks 45-20. Both games saw them score 28 first-quarter points. Then they took the Ole Miss Rebels down to the final play and were within one score of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter.

Now they have to follow through with this pattern. UT is progressing each game and looking to make a statement. Saturday’s matchup at the Kentucky Wildcats is the game to do just that. It’s their opportunity to make the biggest statement of the year.

Kentucky is No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the Coaches Poll. However, at 6-2 and 4-2 in the SEC, they are on a two-game losing streak and reeling. Coming off a bye week, the Vols should smell blood and be able to strike.

We are about to see the turning point for UT. As long as they stay healthy and cut out the unnecessary penalties, they should have no problem competing with a team considered to be one of the top in the SEC, at least on paper.

In each of the last five games that the Vols played, there was a different positive thing to say. During the Ole Miss game, we could see that the Vols’ defense isn’t playing around. They attacked well and wrapped up defenders well. During the Alabama game, their offense hit a huge spark in the first half. They just let go going into the second.

Vol Nation, this is what everybody has been waiting for: the chance for Heupel to prove the program is turning the corner on a national stage. Beating a team they are supposed to beat every year that is ranked in the top 20 on the road on national TV is the perfect chance to do it.

Kentucky is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Saturday night is made for Heupel to get his signature victory. Sure, Mizzou and South Carolina were impressive, but those are two of the three worst teams in the SEC. Beating Kentucky would assure the Vols a winning record, a huge selling point Heupel’s first year given the mess he inherited.

dark. Next. Five things for Vols to improve on after bye

Should Tennessee football cash in on this huge opportunity, they get to host the Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium with a ton of momentum. Hey, we’ve seen magical things happen there before. No, this isn’t a prediction that the Vols will upset Georgia, but this Saturday could mark the beginning of a UT takeover of the SEC under Heupel.