The Tennessee Vols are entering their first season under new head coach Josh Heupel with moderate expectations.

Tennessee is coming off a seven-loss season in a pandemic-shortened season under Jeremy Pruitt.

I’m not sure rock bottom exists for the Vols at this point, but the program was pretty close to rock bottom after firing Pruitt in January (thanks to a recruiting investigation that’s still ongoing).

UT has been here before…a lot. The last 13 years have been an endless cycle of hiring and firing coaches. So far, no one has been able to lead the Volunteers back to the promised land.

Time will tell if Heupel will be that guy. It’s far too early to have any clue how the Heupel era at Tennessee will play out.

Thanks to the rough state of the program, Heupel won’t have sky-high expectations in 2021. But as everyone knows, the honeymoon period for Heupel won’t last long. The former UCF head coach comes to Knoxville with a reputation as an offensive genius.

Fans and analysts are going to expect the Vols’ offense to be dramatically better in 2021 than it was for the last three seasons under Pruitt. College football is all about scoring points these days. A better offense should equal more wins for Tennessee.

So what’s the expected win total for the Vols in 2021?

Well, according to ESPN preseason FPI projected win totals, the expectation is a six or seven-win season.

Tennessee Vols

This is a fairly optimistic prediction from ESPN. The Vols were dreadful in 2020. Almost nothing went right. And the program lost a litany of key players (on both sides of the ball).

If Tennessee wins six or seven games in 2021, then I think fans should be absolutely ecstatic. That would be an amazing turnaround for a program that only managed three wins last season.

Usually, ESPN is down on the Vols when they hire a new coach. But surprisingly, there’s a lot of optimism from ESPN surrounding the future of Tennessee football.

Maybe Heupel really will be the guy who finally turns the program back into a contender.

Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications
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