The season is almost upon us and fans everywhere are dreaming of what it might hold for their team. There is an endless number of possibilities for how this year will end up. That said, this is as good a time as any to look at the best and worst case scenarios for every game Tennessee plays this season and the best and worst case scenarios for the season as a whole.
***Disclaimer: this is by no means a prediction of how the season will turn out. Don’t try and “cold take” me or whatever on Twitter if one of these scenarios doesn’t end up happening.
vs. West Virginia Best Case: UT Wins 31-17
Jeremy Pruitt’s time at Tennessee starts off with a bang, with all facets of his team clicking on all cylinders. One of the quarterbacks steps up and immediately proves he should be the lone starter, complemented by a dominating run game. The defense never gives Will Grier time to set his feet and throw, leading to multiple turnovers, allowing the Vols to roll easily.
vs. West Virginia Worst Case: WVU Wins 56-17
Grier shows he is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender against a young Tennessee secondary that can’t keep pace with a Big 12 offense. Neither Jarrett Guarantano nor Keller Chryst can get their feet under them, and the offense never gets going consistently. There ends up being some garbage time scores for both teams, but it’s never really close.
vs. ETSU Best Case: UT Wins 56-0
Tennessee gets its money’s worth out of this one, and the backups are in before the first half is over. Nobody gets injured, Pruitt is happy with how his team played, and Georgia blows it against South Carolina the same week, leaving the race for the SEC East wide open.
vs. ETSU Worst Case: UT Wins 28-10
Tennessee wins in a snoozer. A couple of starters get hurt, there’s a surplus of bad penalties, and Pruitt throws a microphone at a reporter after the game.
vs. UTEP Best Case: UT Wins 49-10
Tennessee winds up with over 300+ yards passing and 200+ yards rushing on offense, while holding the Miners to a lowly 150 total yards on defense. The touchdown celebrations are new and creative, culminating in an on-field burning of that stupid turnover trashcan from last season.
vs. UTEP Worst Case: UT Wins 17-13
Worst case here is basically a repeat of the UMass game last year, minus the Chris Berman interview.
vs. Florida Best Case: UT Wins 24-10
Pruitt shows he was the best SEC East coaching hire last offseason, exposing Dan Mullen in nearly every facet of the game. Tennessee starts the season 4-0 after only winning four games all of last season, while Mullen is on the hot seat early after starting the year 2-2 with two losses in the SEC and a mediocre recruiting class.
vs. Florida Worst Case: UF Wins 24-10
Basically the opposite of the best case scenario. Pruitt is struggling as a new head coach, and the team is barely showing signs of improvement because of it. Mullen, has his team rolling, having found his quarterback of the future in Emory Jones. Everything is awful and couches in The Fort are left to pay the price.
@ Georgia Best Case: UT Wins 28-24
Pruitt and company roll into Athens trying to prove they belong in the national spotlight, even in their first season. Kirby Smart can’t flip the switch between defending a high-flying Missouri offense one week and a balanced, relentless offense the next from Tennessee. A top-5 UGA falls, and Tennessee takes the reins in the SEC East.
@ Georgia Worst Case: UGA Wins 35-10
If Georgia shows up and just blows Tennessee out of the water, it wouldn’t bode well for Tennessee’s goal of getting back into contention for the East. Small chance it actually happens, too. Salt in the wound would be all of the Georgia talking heads saying “I told you so” after the Pruitt/Richt Media Day story lines this year. Tennessee limps into the bye week looking for answers.
@ Auburn Best Case: UT Wins 31-28
This best case scenario is all based on how Auburn performs this season. There’s no telling which Auburn will show up any given week. Maybe Tennessee, coming off a bye week, will catch the Fighting Gus Malzahns on a bad week and sneak out of the Plains with a W.
@ Auburn Worst Case: Auburn Wins 45-17
Auburn is in contention to win the SEC West, proving it against a beat-up Tennessee team still looking for answers on offense. Vol fans everywhere are now starting to wonder if next season will be any better after starting this season 2-4.
vs. Alabama Best Case: UT Wins 28-21
Gameday is in town to watch the up-start Vols take on big bad ‘Bama in a matchup of undefeated teams. Pruitt, knowing everything there is to know about Nick Saban, sends him back to Alabama with his first loss of the season. In the process, derailing hopes of a follow up national championship run for the Tide.
vs. Alabama Worst Case: Alabama Wins 31-3
It would suck to see Tennessee lose four high profile conference games in a row, but it’s a possibility. It would be even worse if Alabama did to Tennessee what they did to Vanderbilt last year. It’s a long shot it will ever get that bad, but Saban running up the score on one of his disciples isn’t unheard of.
@ South Carolina Best Case: UT Wins 24-14
Tennessee enters the back stretch of the conference schedule with some favorable matchups. Will Muschamp is limping along in his third season, with his signature good defense/atrocious offense. The offense is still rolling, with a near perfect balance between the run and the pass, allowing the Vols to continue their winning ways.
@ South Carolina Worst Case: USCJr. Wins 24-10
Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel continue to prove that they are one of the most dynamic duos in the country. Meanwhile, injuries and growing pains with the new coaching staff leave Tennessee wondering if they will even make a bowl game this year.
vs. Charlotte Best Case: UT Wins 70-0
There was what could loosely be called a football game. Nobody gets hurt, everyone makes it home safe, nothing to see here.
vs. Charlotte Worst Case: UT Wins 21-17
Everything looks terrible even on the way to a win. Everyone is frustrated, but there’s still hope that Tennessee will win out and make a bowl game.
vs. Kentucky Best Case: UT Wins 42-28
In what turns into another forgettable beating at the hands of Tennessee, Kentucky proceeds to finally fire Mark Stoops. The first coach scalp claimed by Pruitt as a head coach.
vs. Kentucky Worst Case: Kentucky Wins 24-10
Tennessee can’t move the ball and Kentucky stumbles head first into a win. Hopes of making a bowl game are gone, and everyone has started to focus on the 2019 recruiting class, even if there’s been more de-commits than commits the past two months.
vs. Missouri Best Case: UT Wins 35-24
Pruitt proves that all of the hype surrounding Drew Lock in Missouri is just that, forcing him to commit three turnovers. The offense rolls, as they have all season. Rumors begin to fly that Missouri will fire Barry Odom and promote Derek Dooley to interim head coach.
vs. Missouri Worst Case: Missouri Wins 52-31
The Lock train is rolling. The Heisman contender puts up a five-touchdown effort against a Tennessee defense limping to the finish line on a cold, rainy night in Knoxville. There’s grumblings that there needs to be some changes with the coaching staff if the team is going to have any success in the future.
@ Vanderbilt Best Case: UT Wins 45-17
Balance is restored in the state of Tennessee, as the Vols leave Neyland West with a perfect season intact and a trip to the SEC Championship on the horizon. Phillip Fulmer begins plans to have a statue built of himself and Pruitt.
@ Vanderbilt Worst Case: Vanderbilt wins by forfeit
Pruitt calls the game off after the eight loss last week. He cuts the whole team and fires the staff and decides to start from scratch next season. For the fans, all the “it couldn’t get worse than last year” talk turns out to be wrong. Everything is awful.
Best Case Season: 12-0
Tennessee is back. It actually feels like ’98. Fulmer is being asked to run for public office. Pruitt wins coach of the year and signs a lifetime contract with Tennessee.
Worst Case Season: 3-9
It somehow got worse. Tennessee will never be good again. It rains every day in Knoxville.