Tennessee Football: Preview and realistic expectations

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Jeremy Pruitt of the Tennessee Volunteers coaches during the first half of a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 24: Head coach Jeremy Pruitt of the Tennessee Volunteers coaches during the first half of a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Jeremy Pruitt is trying to get the Tennessee football program back on track and year two will be important to get that job done.

2019 expectations are all over the board. I’ve seen some fans accepting a 6-6 season this year and others on the other end of the spectrum thinking and hoping the Vols can reach nine wins.

Although I’d love to see Tennessee get to nine wins this year it’s going to be tough for a program who hasn’t been able to win all the games they’re supposed to win over the past few seasons.

Tennessee should win every game on the schedule except for Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Those are Tennessee’s biggest rivals, and with two of those games being on the road, it’s going to be tough to win those games.

As of now, the two toss-up games are BYU and Mississippi State. With that being said, Tennessee’s most important stretch of the season is the last three games.

At Kentucky, at Missouri and at home against Vanderbilt are all very important games for Jeremy Pruitt‘s Vols in 2019. When it comes to Kentucky and Vanderbilt, Tennessee is expected to win, but that hasn’t been the case recently.

If Pruitt can get back on track and start beating Kentucky and Vanderbilt like Tennessee should then Missouri will follow. Right behind them will follow those three rivals I already listed. Some may take longer than others, but if Pruitt is the right guy for the job he’ll get it done.

Tennessee needs to win all of their non-conference games to have a chance at an eight or maybe even a nine-win season. BYU is going to be a crucial game for the Vols, and it’ll be the first real test of the season.

I think, with this game being in Knoxville, the Vols will edge out the Cougars, and the Vols will carry that over into Week 3 against Chattanooga to start the season 3-0.

Tennessee will then travel to Florida for Week 4 and their first SEC game of the season. I don’t see the Vols winning this game in The Swamp, and the Vols take their first loss of the 2019 season.

Tennessee will suffer the same fate the next week against Georgia in Neyland. This game will be close, and it will be a high scoring game, but Georgia has a few more playmakers, and they will edge out the Vols late in the fourth quarter.

Mississippi State is an interesting game for Tennessee. I think the Vols have more talent than Mississippi State and that’ll help with the Tennessee offense against the Bulldogs defense.

After losing two of their last three, Tennessee has to go into Tuscaloosa to face Alabama. Nothing will change in this series, at least this year, as Alabama will beat Tennessee, but not as bad as they did last year.

Now, after starting the season 3-0, the Vols are 4-3 and need to win just two more games to become bowl eligible. They will take one step closer to achieving that with their win over South Carolina.

This win will be significant for the program as this will be the first time Tennessee beats Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks. This will also prove that the Vols are starting to get over the hump of beating SEC teams they haven’t been able to beat recently.

UAB follows, and with that, the Vols will become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. But they can’t settle because there are still three games left and believe it or not a nine-win season is still on the table.

The most important stretch of the season now starts with Kentucky in Lexington. The Vols had a chance to win this game two years ago at Kroger Field but fell short. They made sure that didn’t happen last year though as they beat the best Kentucky team since the 1980s.

Tennessee will take it to Kentucky in Lexington and win their seventh game of the season and will win back-to-back games against Kentucky for the first time since 2015-2016.

Tennessee will suffer their fourth loss of the season on the road against Missouri after a bye week. We’ve seen how good the Missouri offense is and although I’m not sold on Kelly Bryant being an elite athlete at Missouri, I think he’ll have what it takes to top the Vols.

Now the final game of the season and the in-state rivalry against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have won five of the last seven including the last three by a bigger margin each year.

Pruitt needs to change that this year and I say he does at home and Tennessee reasserts its dominance over Vanderbilt. With that win, the Vols move to 8-4 and start their rise back to being a successful program again.

It’s going to be tough for Tennessee to win eight games and injuries have been a huge plague for the Vols in the past six or so years, but with strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald now leading the weight room, I think that changes this year.

Tennessee will be bigger, stronger, faster, and healthier than they have in a long, long time, which is what will give the Vols the edge in some of these close SEC games.

Next. What Kasim Hill brings to the Vols. dark

It could be a fun year for Tennessee, but Pruitt has to get over a few bumps along the way. An eight-win regular season would be huge for Pruitt and the Vols and I think they have what it takes to get there.