Tennessee Betting Odds Preview
It was once almost unthinkable that the Volunteers would miss a bowl game. But if one wanted proof that any program, regardless of stature, could fall from college football grace, consider Tennessee. The Vols were once college football royalty; now they've suffered through four straight losing seasons, and haven't played in a bowl since 2010.
But Butch Jones had success at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, and there's no reason to think he can't turn this program around. However, he will find it difficult to return the Vols to a bowl this season, with a lot of holes to fill, especially along the offensive and defensive lines, and a brutal schedule to tackle.
Tennessee started 2-0 last year, then lost at Oregon (badly) and at Florida. A couple weeks later the Vols lost a heartbreaker to Georgia, but then upset South Carolina, giving hope for bowl eligibility. But Tennessee then suffered three consecutive blowout losses at Alabama, at Missouri and to Auburn, then lost to Vanderbilt (in controversial fashion) for the second year in a row. The Vols then beat Kentucky to finish at 5-7 SU, 2-6 in SEC play, and 5-7 ATS.
Tennessee is now 4-20 SU, 8-16 ATS in SEC play the last three seasons.
This year the Vols return just 10 starters, second-fewest in the conference, none on either front line. Five starters are back on offense, including senior QB Justin Worley and last year's top three receivers, and five starters return on defense, including all four in what should be one the better secondaries around. But there's a lot of rebuilding to do in the trenches.
Tennessee opens this season by hosting feisty Utah State and Arkansas State, then plays at Oklahoma. After that the Vols visit Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vandy, and host Florida, Alabama and Missouri. They miss Auburn and LSU, but Phil Steele still ranks this as the second-toughest schedule in the country.
Coach Jones might have this program headed in the right direction, but two totally new front lines and a tough schedule will keep Tennessee from making too much progress this season.
SEC Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
South Carolina 5/1
Ole Miss 14/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Mississippi State 40/1
The once-proud Tennessee Volunteers football program is going through its worst stretch in almost 40 years. Since dumping coach Phil Fullmer the Vols have gone 23-27, played in two minor bowl games, and lost them both. They've also gone 2-14 in SEC play over the last two seasons. Now they're working under their third head coach since Fullmer, as Butch Jones comes in from Cincinnati (by way of the MAC) to take over for the departed Derek Dooley in Knoxville. Can Jones turn this ship around? Sure, it's possible. It just might take a while.
Tennessee, with 17 starters back last year, started 3-1; unfortunately, everything went downhill from there. As the schedule picked up the Vols faltered, losing four straight games to Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama, and South Carolina. They then gave up 48 points to Troy, 51 to Missouri (in 4 OTs), and 41 to Vanderbilt. That was enough to dump Dooley. UT then managed to beat lowly Kentucky for its only SEC victory of the season. So the Vols finished 5-7 and missed a bowl for the second straight season. And in playing nowhere near expectations Tennessee went 4-8 ATS, and just 1-6 ATS at Neyland Stadium. Coach Jones, who is 50-27 as a college head coach, now takes over a team that returns 13 starters, just five on offense but eight on defense.
UT must replace QB Tyler Bray, who threw 34 TD passes last year, and his four top receivers, but they get back four starters, three of them seniors, on an offensive line that only allowed eight sacks in 477 pass attempts last season. On the other side of the ball Tennessee returns three starters on the line and three in the secondary, but that defense ranked dead last in the SEC in yardage and scoring last year, as eight of 12 opponents scored at least 37 points.
The Vols won't have much time to get up to speed on the new systems this fall; after a couple of warmups they better win, they fly out to Oregon, then head back cross-county to open SEC play at Florida. A couple weeks later Tennessee begins a four-game stretch in which it hosts Georgia and South Carolina and visits Alabama and Missouri. The only good news is they miss LSU and Texas A&M. Still, the Vols might have to win their last three games, vs. Auburn, Vandy, and Kentucky, just to become bowl-eligible.
SEC Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of July 29
South Carolina +500
Texas A&M +850
Mississippi State +10000