Tennessee is looking to make its 1st-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2023.

On Tuesday morning, ESPN published a breakdown of 3 teams who will be fighting for their 1st CFP trip this coming season as well as 3 programs who are trying to make it back.

The Vols made a run at the CFP last season, but faltered in November. ESPN’s Heather Dinich has identified Tennessee’s “biggest hurdle” to a Playoff run in 2023: Defensive growth.

Here is Dinich’s analysis:

Tennessee’s defense showed improvement as the season progressed, but in order to beat Georgia and avoid an upset like South Carolina, it has to be better. The Vols had zero defensive touchdowns and ranked No. 117 in the country last season with 155 total missed tackles. Heupel said he specifically wants to see the defense get better in third-and-long situations and get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Tennessee last season ranked No. 127 in opponent passing yards per game (289.5) and No. 96 in opponents’ average time before a pass (2.8 seconds).

Tennessee also could have growing pains on the offensive side of the ball this season. With Hendon Hooker turning pro, the Vols are expected to start Joe Milton at quarterback this season.

Milton will be entering his 6th year of college football and his 3rd year in Knoxville. Milton has mostly served as a backup during his career, but has shown flashes of becoming a great passer. He completed 64.6% of his throws last season for 971 yards, 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He also averaged 11.8 yards per attempt.

Tennessee’s spring game will be held on April 15.