Will the Tennessee Volunteers win double-digit games for the first time since 2007? Or will they have another mediocre season?
The Tennessee football team has struggled to get out of the “mediocre” category. They have not won double-digit games since 2007 but did go 8-5 in 2019. Something to keep in mind for this program is there are likely some NCAA violations on the way. Former head coach Jeremy Pruitt is at the forefront of allegations that he and his wife were paying recruits thousands of dollars leading to 18 level one violations from the NCAA which is the highest level you can get.
Newly hired head coach Josh Heupel was the coach for UCF while Jeremy Pruitt handed out loads of cash to recruits at Tennessee. Pruitt is now the New York Giants Defensive Assistant. Keep in mind that Heupel had nothing to do with those violations. These violations will make things challenging for Heupel but maybe a fresh face will help this team.
The Volunteers finished 7-6 in 2021 and closed out the year with a win in the Music City Bowl. With starting quarterback Hendon Hooker returning, and four starting linemen back to protect him, this offense is going to take another leap in 2022. The big test will be the defense but Heupel and his coaching staff have loaded up on new recruits all brought in on their recruiting process. So with all of that, let’s break down the Volunteers 2022 schedule, shall we?
Week One, Home Game vs Ball State
The Volunteers open the 2022 season with a Thursday night game against Ball State. Funny enough, the starter for Ball State, John Paddock, was the backup QB for the Vols for the past three seasons. If I were the Vols, I want to unleash the defense on him. This is the perfect chance for the Vols’ defense to find their identity and show they are legit. While it is only Ball State, this will be a good chance for the entire roster to begin solidifying their spots for this season. Vols win this one big as they should against a MAC team.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 42, Ball State 14
Week Two, Away Game vs Pittsburgh
The non-conference games continue in week two but it is a road trip to take on Pittsburgh. These teams faced off last year and Pitt won thanks to star QB Kenny Pickett and star wide receiver, Jordan Addison. With both of those Panthers players gone, the Vols now get to deal with USC transfer QB Kedon Slovis and Akron transfer WR Konata Mumpfield. However, this Tennessee team has far too much chemistry built to let a Pitt team trying to figure out their own roster win this game. Give me the Vols in a close one to avenge last year’s loss.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 34, Pittsburgh 27
Week Three, Home Game vs Akron
After a close win on the road, the Vols return home to take on Akron, another MAC opponent. There is no need to discuss a detailed path in which Tennessee wins this game. Akron’s star players scored three touchdowns all last season while Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman scored three touchdowns in one game by himself. This game will not be close and rightfully so as the Vols will need this game to gear up for SEC play.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 42, Akron 3
Week Four, Home Game vs Florida
After a blowout win against Akron, SEC play begins with a home matchup with the Gators. The yearly matchup between the Volunteers and Gators has been severely one-sided. Florida has 16 of the last 17 meetings. However, this Volunteers team has a chance to take down the Gators this year. Both of these teams have a legitimate chance to enter this game unbeaten. I want to take Florida with their own veteran QB in Anthony Richardson looking ready to win but I cannot do it. Give me the Vols to win a big at home.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 28, Florida 24
Week Five, Away Game vs LSU
After a bye week, a road trip to Death Valley to take on LSU is up next. LSU has a new head coach in Brian Kelly and a ton of transfers loaded with talent. While LSU might not have the firepower of Joe Burrow and Jamarr Chase still around, they will be good again in 2022. By now the Vols will have some sort of momentum especially if they beat Florida in week four. However, a road trip to Death Valley still seems like too much for this Vols team. Give me LSU to defend their home turf and end Tennesse’s winning streak.
Score Prediction: LSU 34, Tennessee 24
Week Six, Home Game vs Alabama
A road trip to Death Valley is tough but to follow it up with a matchup against Alabama is horrible. Sure the game is back in Knoxville but man oh man is Alabama going to be scary. An Alabama team coming off a loss in the national title to a fellow SEC team has to grind their gears. That is bad news for Tennessee and I do not see Alabama losing this game. However, I think the Vols can hang around for most of this game and lose it late.
Score Prediction: Alabama 28, Tennessee 14
Week Seven, Home Game vs UT Martin
After three tough games in a row, the Vols get a rejuvenation game against UT Martin, no offense UT Martin. This game will be a good chance for Tennessee to bounce back and get a win on the board. This will likely be a game where the starters are done by halftime and the Vols win by 30 or more.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 52, UT Martin 14
Week Eight, Home Game vs Kentucky
After the bounce-back win, the tough Kentucky Wildcats come to town. This will be a big game to watch as we head into week eight. This will be a toss-up game that will be key for either team to win in order to keep their SEC hopes alive. ESPN FPI has the Wildcats as the favorites to win but only at 52 percent. This will be a grind-it-out type game that sees the defensive side of the ball being the better performer. However, my gut has me taking Kentucky which has the pieces to win on the road and prove they are legit at least in 2022.
Score Prediction: Kentucky 24, Tennessee 17
Week Nine, Away Game vs Georgia
The Vols then get to go back on the road in week nine to take on the defending national champions in Athens. Once again, as much as Tennessee wants to win this game, it will not happen. Georgia has controlled this series winning 10 of the last 12 meetings as far back as 2010. Last year’s road win for the Bulldogs, saw them take down the Volunteers by a 41-17 score.
The 2022 version of this game will be closer than 41-17 but with it being in Athens, the Volunteers are nowhere near being able to compete late in the game. Give me the Bulldogs to pull away late and flex their muscles at home.
Score Prediction: Georgia 38, Tennessee 24
Week Ten, Home Game vs Missouri
Tennessee returns back home in week ten to host the Missouri Tigers. The Tigers are not what they used to be, not even close. The Vols have enjoyed a three-game winning streak against the Tigers. The Tigers have had to replace QB Connor Bazelak, who transferred to Indiana, and star running back Tyler Badie. The Tigers will still be stumbling around their identity as a team but by week ten could have it a little more organized. However, I still like the Vols to defend their home turf and beat the Tigers to continue their win streak against Mizzou.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 28, Missouri 21
Week Eleven, Away Game vs South Carolina
With week ten being the final home game of the year for Tennessee, the two-game road trip to end the season begins. A trip to South Carolina is up first and the Gamecocks are not the same team from years prior. South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer managed to bring in Spencer Rattler from OU and has this team primed to compete in every game in 2022. However, the Vols are still more talented on both sides of the ball and that is the difference here. It’ll be a close one that shows how much improvement the Gamecocks have made but Tennessee will prevail.
Score Prediction: Tennessee 34, South Carolina 27
Week Twelve, Away Game vs Vanderbilt
The final game of the year is a “road game” against in-state rival Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is rebuilding and its 2022 schedule is not a favorable one for that rebuild. While they can’t do much worse than the 2-10 performance from 2021, the Vols coming to town will not make it easy. I think Tennessee will control this game for all four quarters and get one last conference win for 2022.
If Tennessee can win this final game, they’ll finish 2022 on a three-game winning streak and will have earned eight regular season wins. That’ll be another huge step in the right direction for Heupel and the Vols. They should get invited to a big bowl game after a good season, putting Tennessee football in full view of the rest of the SEC.
Score Prediction: Tennesee 42, Vanderbilt 28
Final Record For Tennessee Football In 2022-23: 8-4 (4-4)
While an 8-4 finish will not put them in contention for a conference title, a bid for a solid bowl game is nothing to be upset about. This program is trying to find its footing in the conference after years of mediocrity. A trip to a bowl game with a winning season is what gets you to that next level. With the veteran players and new head coach, I like the direction Heupel is taking this program.
Which SEC team will improve the most in 2022? Comment below and join the discussion!
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