Tennessee Football: Game-by-Game predictions for 2015
Four Saturdays from now, we’ll be watching college football.
There’s no better time to continue our SEC game-by-game predictions series breaking down each and every contest during the regular season.
We pride ourselves on knowing college football’s most competitive conference as well as anyone and as one reader pointed out this summer using a weighted point system based on accuracy against other preseason prognosticators, our annual ‘Crystal Ball’ ranks among the nation’s most precise.
We called a couple big-time upsets last fall including Mississippi’s win over Alabama, but whiffed on South Carolina’s abrupt fall from grace in the East along with Mizzou’s second consecutive division title.
We’re ready for another exciting season of SEC football, aren’t you?
2015 CRYSTAL BALL SERIES
THE 2015 BATTLEFIELD
Sept. 5 vs. Bowling Green (Nashville, W): Let’s play a little over/under to kick things off: How many yards of total offense will Tennessee pile up and set Derek Barnett’s sack total at 2.5. Anyone?
Sept. 12 vs. Oklahoma (W): The rumor is the Vols are planning to checker-out Neyland for this one, perhaps the most important home game to date for Butch Jones. More folks will buy into the hype after a double-digit win.
Sept. 19 vs. Western Carolina (W): Better to bring out Nike’s ‘Smokey’ alternates against the Catamounts than later in the season against Georgia, right? Uniform debuts for high-profile games often backfires.
Sept. 26 at Florida (W): The 10-game losing streak in the series is snapped and Tennessee improves to 4-0 heading into a pivotal matchup of unbeatens the following week.
Oct. 3 vs. Arkansas (W): College GameDay could be in Knoxville for this cross-divisional battle pitting Top 15 programs. Tennessee has the edge at the skill positions and along the defensive line, which will be enough to prevail.
Oct. 10 vs. Georgia (L): Tennessee’s brief opportunity at a spot in the Top 10 ends in a disappointing late-game finish at the hands of a hated rival.
Oct. 24 at Alabama (L): Perhaps the biggest game on the schedule and vital to the Vols’ conference championship hopes, I like Tennessee’s chances considering it’ll have an extra week to prepare. Still, Alabama will be too much in an epic showdown.
Oct. 31 at Kentucky (W): Another game Wildcats fans consider a ‘toss-up’ this season as far as bowl hopes are concerned, Tennessee’s strength on defense will keep Kentucky at bay. Jalen Hurd hits the 150-yard mark and reaches the end zone twice.
Nov. 7 vs. South Carolina (W): Three straight vs. the Head Ball Coach? Tennessee has officially moved past the Gamecocks in the Eastern Division pecking order for the immediate future.
Nov. 14 vs. North Texas (W): It’s homecoming for the Vols. Yawn.
Nov. 21 at Mizzou (L): A mini three-game winning streak ends at Faurot Field, as do Tennessee’s chances in the East.
Nov. 28 vs. Vanderbilt (W): The Vols put a bow on the Commodores’ second straight winless SEC season and likely send Derek Mason packing.
2015 PROJECTED FINISH: 9-3, 5-3; Tied for 2nd in the East
THE LOWDOWN: Considering the rebuilding phase over at Tennessee. Jones’ team will enter bowl season with a shot at 10 wins for the first time since 2007 this fall, backed by a loaded roster thanks to top-notch recruiting over the last several years. The Vols have a talented quarterback, arguably the SEC’s top pass rusher and skill players in the secondary that will carry this football team.