The Tennessee Vols shocked everyone by finishing 8-5 in 2019 after starting the season with four losses in the first five games.
After losing to Georgia State and BYU, the Vols beat everyone on their schedule not named Alabama, Florida or Georgia.
On a year to year basis, the matchups against those three teams — Tennessee’s biggest rivals — should be “toss up games”.
In other words, Tennessee should be a nine win team in most years (in the regular season) at worst.
Of course, a major non-conference game could throw that formula off a bit. That will be the case in 2020, thanks to a road trip to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners.
That matchup against the Sooners, along with the Vols’ normal SEC schedule, means Tennessee has one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
The 13th hardest in the nation, in fact (according to 247Sports, via ESPN’s FPI rankings).
Here’s what 247Sports said about the Vols’ schedule in 2020.
The home game vs. Alabama in October potentially sets up to be Jeremy Pruitt’s biggest showdown of his tenure if the Vols, who we expect to be ranked in the preseason, coming into that with one loss or fewer following their open week. That’ll be a serious challenge however considering Tennessee goes to Oklahoma in Week 2 and hosts Florida in the SEC opener two weekends later. If there’s a good time to catch the Sooners next fall, it’s probably early in Spencer Rattler’s second start at quarterback.
That matchup against the Sooners means it’s going to be tough for Tennessee to improve on their record from 2019.
The Vols essentially have to pull off at least one upset, and then win the games they’re supposed to win, to get to nine wins (including a bowl win).
It can certainly be done. But it won’t be easy. Considering the bizarre offseason that programs are having to deal with, if the Volunteers can get to eight wins again in 2020, fans should consider it a success and look forward to 2021.
Anything more than eight wins wil be a bonus for Tennessee.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports