See that trophy at the top of the page? Some Tennessee fans might be dreaming of that ultimate prize this season. After all, on paper, this looks like the year the Volunteers could put everything together and create a memorable fall.
However, two Sports Illustrated writers think much differently.
Within a series of projections for the upcoming season, Andy Staples and Joan Niesen gave “Tennessee” as their answer when asked, “Which highly touted team will flop?”
Check out their explanations below:
Staples: “The Volunteers have the best roster in the SEC East, but they also have the toughest schedule in the division. They’re expected to win at least a division title, but that’s asking a lot when Georgia and Florida appear to have much easier paths. Tennessee needs to beat the Gators and Bulldogs in consecutive weeks. If not, those cross-division games with Texas A&M and Alabama (yikes) become must-wins.”
Niesen: “The Volunteers are ranked ninth in the preseason AP poll, and I’m still not buying it. Tennessee hasn’t been a top-10 team to close a season since 2001, and though the Vols have ticked upward in the wins category in each of the past three seasons, I just don’t see them among college football’s elite yet.”
The doubts about Tennessee are understood. Sure, there’s a bunch of talent in Knoxville. But as Staples points out, the schedule includes more than a few high hurdles. That not-so-little Florida problem is hard to ignore as well.
The Volunteers must use tunnel vision to stay motivated with so many outside voices expecting a big year from them. Of course, there will be pressure involved, whether those on Rocky Top will want to admit it or not.