There are question marks, particularly in the passing game, along with some big shoes that need to be filled in terms of on-field production and leadership. However, there is no shortage of talent on Rocky Top, as the Vols return most of their starters on both sides of the football to go along with an influx of promising young talent courtesy of a top-10 recruiting class.
That leaves plenty of reason for optimism heading into Year Three of the Jeremy Pruitt era. But there is still the matter of Tennessee's revamped 2020 schedule. A particularly brutal 10-gameSEC slate now includes matchups against Texas A&M and Auburn, which gives the Vols a grand total of five opponents ranked inside the preseason top 15.
So, what exactly are the expectations for Pruitt's Volunteers in this pivotal upcoming season? Athlon Sports asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Tennessee in 2020.
Tennessee Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Tennessee finished 2019 on a six-game winning streak and all signs point to the program trending in the right direction this fall. However, the revamped SEC schedule didn’t do many favors for coach Jeremy Pruitt’s squad. The Volunteers play five out of the league’s top six teams and open with a swing game at South Carolina. Getting better quarterback play is a must in 2020, and senior Jarrett Guarantano is likely to hold off a couple of challengers for the starting nod. Even if Guarantano wins the job, getting the ball in the hands of running backs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray behind one of the SEC’s top offensive lines will be a priority. Tennessee’s defense held opponents to just 21.7 points a contest last fall but must replace a couple of key cogs – safety Nigel Warrior and linebackers Darrell Taylor and Daniel Bituli. I’ve got the Volunteers finishing 5-5, which despite the tough schedule, is probably a little on the low side. The guess here is Tennessee pulls off an upset somewhere but doing so hinges on big-time improvement from its quarterbacks.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
After a fantastic finish to last season, Tennessee fans are eager for 2020. The Volunteers may not be quite ready to challenge Georgia and Florida for the top spot in the SEC East but they are closer to those teams than the rest of the division. Vol fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their team and I think Tennessee will pull off at least one upset this season, but in the end, a schedule that includes Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M, as well as the Bulldogs and Gators, will have UT finishing no higher than second (more likely third) in the SEC East.
Rob McVey (@Rob_UTVOLS)
The Volunteers are trending in the right direction under Jeremy Pruitt, and there's more than enough talent on the Tennessee roster to make some noise this season. Defensively, it will be a tall order finding replacements for Daniel Bituli, Darrell Taylor, and Nigel Warrior. But the Vols should continue to be stout on that side of the football, with high-level talents in linebacker Henry To'o To'o and cornerback Bryce Thompson now leading the way. Offensively, Tennessee has a chance to be much improved, with nine starters returning from last season. The offensive line should be among the best in the SEC (with or without Cade Mays), and the backfield features a formidable one-two punch in Eric Gray and Ty Chandler. The big question lies at quarterback. The overall success of this team (or lack thereof) will likely hinge on whether Jarrett Guarantano, or one of the other options at quarterback, can take this offense to the next level with some semblance of consistency. The difficulty of Tennessee's revamped schedule is obviously a big factor as well.