We reviewed five preseason magazines — Athlon, ESPN, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News — and broke down their team-by-team predictions.
Saturday, we examine Tennessee. Here is what’s being said about the Volunteers:
Lindy’s (No. 1 in SEC East — No. 6, Sugar Bowl): “The Vols won their final six games last season and routed Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. The breakthrough has arrived.”
Athlon (1st in SEC East — No. 7, 10-3, Sugar Bowl): “Tennessee fans can all say it together: This is the year. This is the season the Volunteers retake their rightful place among the SEC elite … 11 wins probably means the Volunteers’ first trip to the SEC championship game since 2007 and their first win over Florida since 2004.”
Phil Steele (1st in SEC East — No. 7, Sugar Bowl): “Even if they slip up in a game, they would just need to win the SEC title game and they would make the playoffs. The Vols have gone from 5 to 7 to 9 wins. Can they take the next step?”
ESPN (1st in SEC East — No. 11, 10.2 projected wins, Sugar Bowl): “Anything but double-digit W’s — and an SEC title-game berth — would be a disappointment in 2016. The Vols face consistency worries, but with 19 starters back, they enter the season as trendy East favorites again.”
Sporting News (1st in SEC East — No. 13, Orange Bowl): “There’s offseason turmoil resulting from a Title IX lawsuit, but coach Butch Jones has this team ready to win the SEC East on the field. September games against Virginia Tech and against Florida will set the tone.”
Preseason All-American selections: Cameron Sutton (1st x2, 2nd x1, 3rd x1), Derek Barnett (1st x1, 2nd x3), Evan Berry (1st x2), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (3rd x2), Jalen Hurd (4th x1)
Preseason All-SEC selections: Cameron Sutton (1st, unanimous), Jalen Hurd (1st x4, 2nd x1), Derek Barnett (1st x4, 2nd x1), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (1st x3, 2nd x2), Evan Berry (1st x3, 2nd x1), Jashon Robertson (1st x2), Josh Dobbs (2nd x3), Dylan Wiesman (1st x1), Alvin Kamara (2nd x1), Coleman Thomas (2nd x1), Trevor Daniel (3rd x2), Preston Williams (4th x1)
- ESPN’s Football Power Index projected Tennessee as the favorite in all 12 of its matchups, with the toughest games coming at Georgia (56 percent chance of victory), vs. Alabama (59 percent) and at Texas A&M (59 percent).
- Sporting News named Tennessee the SEC’s most “overrated” team: “The Volunteers deserve to be the SEC East favorite. But if Tennessee can’t solve its Alabama and Florida complexes, the Vols may miss their connection to Atlanta.”
- Athlon named Tennessee as one of its six teams “on the rise,” saying, “How many consecutive years can you be a team on the rise? … There’s no guarantee that experience will alleviate the sort of conservatism and clamminess that beset them late against Oklahoma and Florida in particular.”
- Lindy’s named Josh Dobbs the SEC’s “best scrambler” and “coolest in the clutch,” while naming Rashaan Gaulden the SEC’s top “special teams demon.”
- Phil Steele’s projections had Tennessee No. 3 in the country in terms of returning starters (17), and he noted that all eight of the Volunteers’ units rank in his Top 25. He also had the Vols’ special teams No. 3 in the nation.
- Athlon calculated that Tennessee’s offense (No. 9 in the country) and defense (No. 2) were both elite in terms of “field position,” or the “average starting field position by yard line.”
- ESPN spoke with an anonymous coach who broke down quarterback Josh Dobbs’ weakness: “He can’t throw the ball down the field. That’s not his bag. His bag is for them to motion the back out of the backfield, throw it to him out in space, and then the guy makes defenders miss and goes 25 yards. That’s a guy you want to make throw the ball.”
- Lindy’s — in partnership with NFLDraftScout.com — listed Dobbs as the nation’s No. 3 quarterback prospect.
- ESPN analyst Desmond Howard named the Volunteers’ special teams unit the best in the nation, emphasizing the production of returners Evan Berry and Cameron Sutton.