2010 Record: 6-7
2010 Bowl Result: lost Music City Bowl 30-27 2OT to North Carolina
2010 Against the Spread: 7-6
2010 over/under: 10-3
Returning Starters: 12 (7 offense, 5 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Tennessee was 6–6 last season in the first year under head coach Derek Dooley. The Volunteers lost a heart breaker 30-27 in double overtime to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl to finish 6-7. This year the Vols return 12 starters and Tennessee fans hope to be singing Rocky Top more frequently.
Here is a look at Tennessee;s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.
Conventional wisdom says the Volunteers are a year away from being really great on offense, but expect them to be better this year than last. Last season, the Vols had to start a lot of freshmen, but the trial by fire will help them this year. The passing game was ranked #30 in the country with 254.5 yards a game, but the rushing game was among the worst tin the country with 112.8 yards a game. Overall, Tennessee averaged 367.3 total yards a game, and scored 27 points a game. They return 7 starters from the unit.
Sophomore Tyler Bray and senior Matt Simms (son of Phil, and brother of Chris) split time at quarterback last season. However, the offense seemed to flow better with Bray under center, so expect him to get most of the snaps this season with Simms as the #2. Bray completed 55.8% of his passes for 1,849 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Bray threw for 354 yards against Kentucky and 312 in the loss to North Carolina. Bray has been predicted by some to be the best quarterback in the SEC this season, high praise indeed for a conference that includes Stephen Garcia and John Brantley. Simms completed 57.9% of his passes for 1,460 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Behind Simms are two freshmen, Justin Worley and Nash Nance, but they won’t get much playing time until next season barring injury.
It was hard to believe that a team with a halfback as talented as junior Tauren Poole was so bad at rushing the ball. The main problem was a leaky offensive line that struggled to pass protect and open holes. Despite this Poole still had 204 carries, 1,034 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He also had 22 catches, 171 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Rajion Neal had 46 carries for 197 yards last season. he will be the primary back-up to Poole. Redshirt Freshmen Dorian Cozart and Deanthoine Summerhill will compete for the #3 running back job. Sophomore Channing Fugate and junior Ben Batholomew are the fullbacks.
Poole is Tennessee’s leading returning receiver. The Vols have to replace their top three receivers, Gerald Jones, Denarius Moore, and tight end Luke Stocker. The three accounted for 141 catches, 1,994 yards, and 15 touchdowns. Sophomore Da’Rick Rogers had 11 catches, 167 yards, and 2 touchdowns last year along with 16 carries for 117 yards. He is expected to be the number one receiver this year. Another talented sophomore Justin Hunter will be the #2 receiver. Hunter had 16 catches, 415 yards, and 7 touchdowns last season. He averaged 25.9 yards per catch. Rogers and Hunter should compliment each other nicely. Hunter had 3 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns against Old Miss, and 4 passes for 110 yards and a score against Georgia last season. Junior Zach Rogers had 14 catches, 207 yards, and a touchdown last season. Freshmen DeAnthony Arnett and Vincent Dalls will also get significant targets. Junior Mychal Rivera is the new tight end. He had 11 catches for 112 yards alst season. His back-up is freshman Brendan Downs.
The offensive line started 3 freshman and a sophomore last year. They struggled badly finishing 115th in sacks allowed. This year all four youngsters return with another year under their belts. They should improve but how much is the question.
The defense wasn’t awful last year, but it wasn’t exactly great either. They were ranked 68th in the country giving up 384.7 yards a game. Tennessee gave up 229.6 passing yards a game, and 155.1 rushing yards a game. They allowed 25.1 points a game. The defense returns 5 starters from that unit.
Tennessee needs more of a pass rush. USC transfer senior Defensive tackle transferred to Tennessee and will help the Vols in that department. The linebackers need to replace two starters, but junior Herman Lathers does return after he had 75 tackles last year. Free safety Janzen Jackson left the team in January for personal reasons. The coaches left the door open for his return but he hasn’t yet.
Sophomore Michael Palardy takes over as the full time kicker. He made 5 of his 7 kicks but missed both from over 40. He has the potential to be a great kicker but needs to work on his range.
Redshirt Freshmen Matt Darr takes over the punting duties. He was a top recruit in 2009 and looks to improve on the Vols’ 42.3 yards per punt average.
Eric Gordon will return kicks after averaging 23 yards a return last year. Anthony Anderson and Da’Rick Rogers will return punts.
Tennessee opens with home games against Montana and Cincinnati. The Volunteers then travel to Florida before a 3 game home stand against Buffalo, Georgia, and LSU. Tennesse then travels to Alabama before hosting South Carolina and Middle Tennessee St. Tennessee closes the season with games at Arkansas, home vs Vanderbilt and at Kentucky. I don’t see more than 7 wins for this team, with such a difficult schedule.
Tennessee was 7-6 ATS last year including 3-5 at home and 4-1 on the road. The over/under was 10-3 including 7-1 at home and 3-2 on the road.
Game to play Tennessee
November 19, Tennessee hosts in state rival Vanderbilt. The Volunteers have dominated the series against the Commodores going 72-28-5. This year should be no different as Vandy is coming off a 2-10 season last year. Tennessee simply has too much for their rivals.
Game to Bet Against Tennessee
October 8, Tennessee starts a brutal four game stretch with home games against Georgia, LSU, & South Carolina sandwiched around a road game at Alabama. Those are arguably the 4 best teams in the SEC, and the Vols could lose all four of those games. If they win one it will be a surprise.
Check out our college football odds page for the best lines on every game.