Jauan Jennings

Progress is the Expectation. How Much is the Fun Part.

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How would you feel about a season like this:

  • Beat Georgia State by four possessions, UAB by three possessions, and Chattanooga by as much as you want
  • Beat BYU and Vanderbilt by a touchdown
  • Toss-ups with South Carolina and at Kentucky
  • Lose to Mississippi State by a touchdown
  • Lose at Missouri by 10
  • Lose at Florida/vs Georgia by two touchdowns
  • Blown out at Alabama

Split the toss-ups with South Carolina and Kentucky, and you’re 6-6. Win both of them, and you’re 7-5.

That’s essentially Tennessee’s SP+ projection. Bill Connelly’s preseason rankings, now at ESPN.com, have the Vols just outside the Top 25 at #26. But, as is always the case with us, that’s less important than how many teams on Tennessee’s schedule are ranked ahead of us: six this year, including five in the Top 13 (SP+ really likes both Mississippi State and Missouri).

This kind of season is one way progress could look for Tennessee. Not only would the Vols return to bowl eligibility after a two-year absence, but Tennessee would be competitive in every game but the one in Tuscaloosa.

If Tennessee loses only one game by 17+ points (three possessions)? 2019 would be only the third time that’s happened since 2007, joining Butch Jones’ teams in 2015 and 2016. The former is the only Tennessee team to not lose a game by multiple possessions since 1998.

A 6-6 finish wouldn’t necessarily thrill the masses, but if it comes with this level of competitiveness, the Vols will have clearly taken a step in the right direction, as SP+ projects.

But if that’s not exciting enough for you, how about a season like this:

  • Beat Georgia State by four possessions, UAB by three possessions, and Chattanooga by as much as you want
  • Beat BYU and Vanderbilt by 10-12 points
  • Beat South Carolina by 3-4 points
  • Toss-ups with Mississippi State, at Kentucky, and at Missouri
  • Lose at Florida/vs Georgia by a touchdown
  • Lose at Alabama by 17

Go 1-2 in those toss-ups, and you’re 7-5. Go 2-1, and you’re 8-4.

That’s essentially Tennessee’s FPI projection. And for many of us, that sounds more like it.

This kind of season would feel much more like progress, even if the Vols don’t upset the Gators or Dawgs. One last time before kickoff: an 8-5 finish would be the third-best season of the last 12 years; 9-4 would tie Jones in 2015 and 2016 as the best since 2007. You always start and finish with wins and losses; we’ll spill plenty of word count on what this team did or didn’t do in the space between 5-7 and 8-4. But along the way, progress will once again be measured on every snap. It remains readily available…and the real fun will be in seeing how many wins that progress will earn.

Here’s the side-by-side comparison; margins come from comparing each team’s rating, +2.5 points for home field advantage:

2019 Vols Projected Margin of VictorySP+FPI
Georgia State2928.6
at Florida-15.4-6
Mississippi State-6.91.9
at Alabama-26.9-17.2
South Carolina-1.93.4
at Kentucky1.12
at Missouri-10.5-1.3
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10 months ago

Nice balance in the rationale, but I am hoping for more… like no blow out vs. Alabama… or if there is one, we are in the game through the third quarter and fall apart in the fourth. Would not be happy with BYU and Vandy wins by only a touchdown. If injuries and other issues arise by October… perhaps 6-6 will feel good down the stretch. Go Vols!!

10 months ago

Nothing personal Will… but it looks like you can file this article in the archives… I believe we are walking backwards and it will be very long, long, season again. Ugh!