If you’ve paid attention to Tennessee football in recent years, you know the state of the program. The Vols are one of the SEC’s winningest teams, but have been rebuilding for the past several seasons. Since 2010, Tennessee hasn’t appeared in a bowl game and has finished with a losing record in each season.

Head coach Butch Jones has been vocal since his arrival in December 2012. The former Cincinnati coach promised to improve the program, which he’s on pace to do having already matched his win total from his first season. With two games remaining, the Vols should end their bowl drought and could finish with an 8-5 record (including a bowl win).

Tennessee has improved since inserting quarterback Joshua Dobbs into its lineup. The Vols are 2-0 since Dobbs was named the starting quarterback. Tennessee’s offensive line, which ranks last in the SEC, has allowed just three sacks since Dobbs’ debut against Alabama in Week 9.

The Vols offense recorded over 500 yards in each of their last two games. In Week 10, Tennessee had a season best 645 total yards against South Carolina. Following their bye week, the Vols recorded 511 yards against Kentucky last Saturday, the second highest total of 2014.

Tennessee will face Missouri this weekend at Neyland Stadium. Despite a .500 record, the Vols opened as a three-point favorite over the defending SEC East champion and current division leader. The Tigers present the toughest remaining matchup for Tennessee, with a season finale against Vanderbilt the following week.

Tennessee should be a preseason favorite in the SEC East if it wins all of its remaining games. Even during their struggles, the Vols competed in every SEC East matchup. While other teams face key departures, Tennessee keeps the majority of its starting lineup in 2015, losing just four senior starters.

The Vols have a potential star in Dobbs, who has already made drastic progress as a sophomore. Tennessee has played over 20 true freshmen. Players such as Jalen Hurd and Derek Barnett have gained in-game experience and will continue their development.

Hurd is Tennessee’s leading rusher and has seen back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances. Barnett has already set the school freshman sack record and is two shy of matching Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett for the SEC freshman record.

Tennessee is a rising program that has salvaged a potential losing season with a much needed winning streak. Jones could exceed his second-year expectations with a three-win improvement. The SEC East should be as wide open next season as it was in 2014 and the Vols could be the top contender.