Things are looking up on ol’ Rocky Top.
The Tennessee Volunteers are 5-0 so far this season and rank within college football’s top 10 teams. With wins over some ranked squads, they’ve established themselves as a legit SEC contender this season. At least so far.
However, the Vols’ schedule only gets tougher and they still have a lot to prove. Is Tennessee football for real this year and do they have a shot at the SEC or even the College Football Playoff? Let’s break it down.
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Is Tennessee Football For Real?
Call the Vols whatever you want, but it’s undeniable that Tennessee is off to a strong start. How strong, though, is up for debate. Sure, the Vols are 5-0, but they’ve also scraped by with some close wins against mediocre teams. They needed overtime to beat Pitt and almost choked against now-unranked Florida last week.
There’s a lot to like about Tennessee, and they have New Year’s Six bowl potential, but they’re still not in that top SEC tier with Alabama and Georgia. The Vols’ national championship odds reflect that, too, as they sit seventh in playoff odds with +3300 odds to win the title this year.
If you’re not a believer of the Volunteers’ playoff potential, there are still other ways to profit off this Tennessee turnaround.
Can Tennessee Beat Alabama?
Tennessee’s biggest test of the season comes this week against Alabama. The Volunteers haven’t beaten the Crimson Tide since 2006, and a Tennessee win this weekend would certainly cement them as a true contender in 2022.
With ’Bama QB Bryce Young questionable to play, things are certainly falling in Tennessee’s favor right now. But, they have a decade of Alabama defeats hanging over them and the Vols are still 7-point underdogs.
Place your Alabama vs Tennessee picks over at Bovada:
How Many Games Will Tennessee Win In 2022?
Two months into the 2022 college football season and the Vols are 5-0 with three ranked wins. Not a bad resume for a team that could’ve gone either way in 2022. The three toughest games on their schedule still remain, but this is the best start Tennessee fans could’ve hoped for.
|Week 1||vs Ball State||WIN (59-10)|
|Week 2||@ No. 17 Pitt||WIN (34-27 OT)|
|Week 3||vs Akron||WIN (63-6)|
|Week 5||vs No. 20 Florida||WIN (38-33)|
|Week 6||@ No. 25 LSU||WIN (40-13)|
|Week 7||vs No. 3 Alabama|
|Week 8||vs UT Martin|
|Week 9||vs No. 22 Kentucky|
|Week 10||@ No. 1 Georgia|
|Week 11||vs Missouri|
|Week 12||@ South Carolina|
|Week 13||@ Vanderbilt|
Will The Vols Hit Their Wins OVER?
The Volunteers are already over halfway home on their preseason 2022 win total line. Sportsbook Bovada set Tennessee’s OVER/UNDER at eight wins this year (with -130 odds on the OVER) and they’re only three wins away from pushing that mark. But, per ESPN, the Volunteers have the third-toughest remaining schedule in the country.
Even if the Vols drop their three remaining games against ranked teams — Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia — they’ll still have some layups against UT Martin and Vandy to help push the OVER. If they can take care of business against solid Missouri and South Carolina, this will be a clear OVER for Tennessee football in 2022.
Can Hendon Hooker Win The Heisman?
Tennessee’s strength this season comes on offense. They rank as the fifth most efficient offense in the country (29th on defense) and Hooker is the main reason why.
The perfect blend of efficiency and big-play potential, Hooker has 1,432 passing yards and 10 touchdowns through the air in five games this year, while rocking a career-high 70.0 percent completion rate. He’s contributing on the ground, too, with over 230 rushing yards and three ground scores early this year.
Hooker currently sits tied for fourth in 2022 Heisman odds, behind some of the top gunslingers in the nation, but his resume is just as compelling as the other top options. At +1200 odds, his implied chances of winning college football’s top honor this year is 7.69 percent, per our odds calculator. For him to keep climbing these odds, it’ll take continued great play and probably a few big upsets from the Vols, but Hooker certainly seems capable of doing his part.
Cedric Tillman: The Key To Tennessee’s Offense
Wide receiver Cedric Tillman has only played in two full games this season due to an ankle injury, but he’s reminding Vols fans and college football experts why he was seen as the key to this Tennessee offense. In a Week 2 OT win over Pitt, Tillman caught nine passes for 162 yards and a huge late touchdown.
Tillman’s scoring catch in that game, his only one of the season so far, was a dagger in Panthers fans’ hearts. It came in overtime, as the WR lost his defender in the end zone and reeled in a heave from Hooker as the eventual game-winner. Though he’s still battling the ankle injury right now, that Tillman-Hooker connection will be crucial for the Vols down the stretch.
The Volunteers are 3-2 in favor of the OVER for total points in their games this season, and when a healthy Tillman returns, it’s safe to assume the points will keep coming.