The Tennessee Vols’ schedule has traditionally been set up in such a way that if UT is able get through the first two months of the season relatively unscathed, they can cruise through November.
From 1989 to 2004, the Vols swept November 11 times. Tough matchups against Florida, Georgia and Alabama were typically played in September and October. Games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt — which are usually played in November — would customarily give Tennessee two “gimme wins”.
In recent years, however, the Vols haven’t been able to engage cruise control late in the season very often. At least not they like did during the program’s glory days.
In the 15 year period since 2004, the Vols have swept November only three times.
(2007, 2010 and 2015.)
What used to be almost automatic has now become fleeting.
Jeremy Pruitt has a chance to flip the script, though.
Tennessee has a legitimate chance to sweep November in 2019, which would give the Vols a 7-5 record to finish the regular season.
UT already has wins against UAB and Kentucky this month. They finish with winnable games against Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Start fast. 💨
Start early. ⏰
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) November 12, 2019
Of those two games, the matchup against Missouri will likely be the toughest.
The Tigers, who the Vols haven’t beat since 2016, are in the midst of a four game losing streak. But that doesn’t mean that Tennessee won’t have their hands full.
Missouri has the No. 19 scoring defense in the nation. The Tigers allowed only two touchdowns to the Florida Gators in their 23-6 loss this past weekend. And they only allowed two touchdowns in a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs the previous week (a 27-0 loss for the Tigers).
The problem for Missouri during their losing streak has been their offense. They’ve only scored 13 points in their last three games.
Tennessee is playing defense at a near elite level right now, so Missouri’s offensive woes bode well for the Volunteers.
If UT can get past the Tigers this weekend, then you’d have to assume (which isn’t wise, I know) that Tennessee would cruise past a bad Vanderbilt team.
The Commodores are 2-8 this season and they’ve only scored 21 points in the three games since their upset win against Missouri in mid October.
Tennessee has played their best football of the season over the last month. Coming off a bye week, and with the bad tase of last year’s poor finish still lingering, the Vols are in a great position to sweep November for just the fourth time in the last 15 years.
If that happens, it will just be added to list of unlikely feats that Pruitt has managed to accomplish in his first two seasons on Rocky Top.
More importantly, it will give the Vols some much needed momentum heading into the early signing period in December.
Featured image via Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports