It’s the time of the year everybody feels overly optimistic about their team and are bursting for football. Yep, it’s season prediction time. With COVID-19 changing everything we are familiar with, this season will be very interesting. The SEC announced that its 14 schools would play a 10 game schedule consisting of conference-only games. The Tennessee Volunteers will play six divisional games and Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, and Texas A&M. They will start the year against South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, and Kentucky. The pandemic makes predicting Tennessee’s record tough, but let’s take a look.
The Vols open with a road game in Columbia, SC. South Carolina finished 4-8 last year, and rumors of Will Muschamp being on the hot seat were surfacing. The Gamecocks did, however, stun the nation when they went into Athens and upset Georgia. Ryan Hillinski showed promise in his freshmen campaign, and they also got Collin Hill from Colorado State so that the quarterback room could be solid. However, the Vols continued to improve both in returning players as well as in recruiting. Tennessee handily won this matchup last year 41-21, and I expect them to do much of the same this year. I say Vols win 30-17.
The biggest story in Columbia, MO, this football season is how Eli Drinkwitz will handle being an SEC coach and if he can carry over his previous success in the SunBelt.The Tigers also lost some talent with Kelly Bryant and Albert Okwuegbunam, just to name a couple. They still return electric players such as Tyler Badie and Larry Rountree III. The Vols are more talented and experienced in this game and should dominate both offensively and defensively. I’m predicting Vols win 28-13.
This will be the first big test for the Volunteers in 2020 and will also be the earliest they have played Georgia in a very long time. The Bulldogs will have a new signal-caller this year as Jake Fromm departed to the NFL. A large part of their Offensive line from last year is also not there anymore with Isaiah Wilson and Andrew Thomas getting drafted and Cade Mays transferring to Tennessee. Despite all this attrition, they return as well as add a lot of talent. George Pickens, Eric Stokes, and Malik Herring, just to name a few, are contributors from last season returning. They also add talented recruits such as Darnell Washington and Kelee Ringo. The Vols should be vastly improved from last season and will make this game a very good one. However, Georgia’s talent edge and whatever sliver of a home-field advantage will be in 2020 leads me to predict the Bulldogs winning 24-17.
Kentucky had a solid year last season, finishing 8-5 with a win in the Belk Bowl. The Wildcats are definitely talented with one of the best offensive lines in the country. After losing Lynn Bowden to the draft, Kentucky may switch up their playstyle as the Wildcat formation was very prominent for them last year. Quarterback Terry Wilson returns, and they also add Joey Gatewood. Mark Stoops has been a very good coach throughout his time in Lexington and should be no different this year. However, Tennessee holds a talent advantage and should get the job done at home. I say Vols win 34-17.
Going into the third season of the Jeremy Pruitt era, Tennessee has to prove that it is closing the talent gap and contending with the league’s top teams. With four big games on the schedule and one previewed above, they have plenty of chances to do just that. With the coaching staff in place, it will be exciting to see how accurate I was predicting Tennessee’s record.
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