Spring football has ended and projections for 2023 are in full swing.
Win totals are out with one sportsbook putting Tennessee’s number at 9.5 wins.
Can the Vols repeat (or even exceed) last year’s 10-2 run?
To do that, Tennessee will need to avoid some slip-ups.
The Vols have become the hunted thanks to last year’s success.
Let’s take a look at Tennessee’s upcoming schedule.
Here’s a countdown of the most dangerous games on the Vols’ schedule.
12 – Austin Peay
Tennessee will win. By a lot.
11 – UConn
UConn went to a bowl game last season and is led by long-time coach Jim Mora.
But the Huskies’ roster doesn’t compare to Tennessee’s level of talent. The Vols will win this one and should run away with it.
10 – Vanderbilt
Tennessee played Vanderbilt at an ideal time for the Commodores last season.
The Vols were coming off a deflating loss at South Carolina while Vandy had won consecutive games against Kentucky and Florida.
This year’s game will be in Knoxville and shouldn’t scare the Vols at all.
9 – Virginia
This will be an emotional game for Virginia.
The Cavaliers will play their first game since three football players were shot and killed in November. Virginia canceled the final two games of the season after the tragic event.
On the field, this game shouldn’t be a challenge for Tennessee. The Vols will have a “home field” advantage playing in Nashville and should be too good offensively for Virginia to keep up.
8 – UTSA
A Group of 5 team cracked the top-8 most dangerous games on Tennessee’s schedule?
Well, UTSA won 11 games in 2022, finishing with the nation’s 14th-best scoring offense at 36.8 points per game.
This isn’t a game Tennessee should worry about. But the Vols will need to focus and not look ahead.
UTSA will come to Knoxville the week after Tennessee plays at Florida and the week before the Vols host South Carolina.
Tennessee can’t overlook UTSA. As long as the Vols don’t, they’ll be fine.
7 – Missouri
Here’s another game in which Tennessee can’t afford to look ahead.
The Vols will travel to Columbia to face Missouri the week before Tennessee will host Georgia.
If Tennessee is having success, a lot of the talk during Missouri week will be about Georgia.
But Tennessee has handled Missouri the last two seasons under Josh Heupel and should do so again this season.
Missouri looks like one of the bottom teams in the SEC and will likely struggle to keep up with Tennessee’s scoring.
6 – South Carolina
Shouldn’t this game be higher considering last year’s result at South Carolina?
Perhaps. But this is a game Tennessee will have circled – and the atmosphere in Knoxville will be more advantageous than what the Vols faced last year in Columbia.
South Carolina will be a solid team and will be confident it can repeat last year’s result against Tennessee.
A veteran quarterback in Spencer Rattler will help boost that confidence for the Gamecocks.
Tennessee-South Carolina games have a way of being close and/or interesting. This could be the same.
It’s a game Tennessee should win. But don’t write the result in ink quite yet.
5 – Florida
Florida has a lot of concerns entering the season.
One Sportsbook put the Gators’ win total at 5.5 recently. Six wins and barely making a bowl game is NOT the standard in Gainesville.
The Gators’ standard includes beating Tennessee.
And that’s why the Vols better be ready when they travel to Florida in Week 3.
Tennessee has a better team than Florida. If the Vols play like they’re capable of offensively, they’ll beat the Gators.
But what if Joe Milton III and the offense start slow in a tough road environment?
Florida could pick up some confidence and make it a game in the fourth quarter.
The Vols could beat Florida by multiple touchdowns and no one would be surprised.
Tennessee just needs to make sure it wins to start the SEC season off right.
4 – Texas A&M
On paper, Texas A&M should have one of the best teams in the country.
The Aggies’ roster is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.
But Texas A&M went 5-7 last season and coach Jimbo Fisher is facing major pressure this year.
This works out favorably for Tennessee from a scheduling standpoint.
The Vols will be off the week before they host Texas A&M while the Aggies will play Alabama the week before traveling to Knoxville.
This game is higher than Florida and South Carolina simply because of Texas A&M’s talent.
The Aggies’ have several future NFL players at the skill positions that could create matchup problems for Tennessee’s defense.
Tennessee will be favored against Texas A&M and should win the game. But it won’t be easy.
3 – Kentucky
This is Tennessee’s biggest schedule hurdle for 2023.
Tennessee whipped Kentucky last year and should be better than the Wildcats this season.
But the Vols will travel to Lexington the week after playing at Alabama.
The Alabama game will take a lot out of Tennessee, win or lose for the Vols.
It will be a physical game and one that will require a lot of mental energy.
How will Tennessee respond the following week when the Vols have to go play a Kentucky team with revenge on its mind from last year?
With transfer quarterback Devin Leary, Kentucky should bounce back from a disappointing 2022.
Tennessee will have to be ready for the Wildcats.
2 – Alabama
There’s a case to make this No. 1 on the list considering the game will be in Tuscaloosa and Alabama will be motivated to avenge last year’s loss in Knoxville.
There are still some questions about Alabama.
What will the Crimson Tide be on offense with a new coordinator (Tommy Rees) and a new quarterback?
Tyler Buchner’s transfer to Alabama from Notre Dame could fix the concerns Nick Saban had about the quarterback position during the spring. But it also could be a hint at the Tide’s desperation.
Alabama will have a ton of talent on its roster and will be a really tough game for the Vols. I don’t need to explain any further.
1 – Georgia
Here’s the team everyone in college football – Alabama included – is trying to catch.
Tennessee will host the game in November and will be one of the top teams with a chance to beat Georgia this season.
Can the Vols do it? They’ll have the home crowd on their side but they’ll need a lot more than that.
Georgia has talent everywhere and will create problems up front for Tennessee.
The Vols will try to learn from last year’s mistakes that kept the offense from finding any success against Georgia.
The Bulldogs have won consecutive national titles for a reason.
Until someone knocks off Georgia, the Bulldogs will be the most dangerous opponent for any team they face.