As expected, Butch Jones’ first season at Tennessee has been a challenge.
The Volunteers opened the year with back-to-back wins against Austin Peay and Western Kentucky but lost by a combined score of 90-31 to Oregon and Florida.
Last week, Tennessee opened up a 31-7 lead on South Alabama, but the Jaguars rallied in the second half and had a chance to tie late in the fourth quarter.
Both sides of the ball are problematic for Tennessee, and help won’t arrive until February with the upcoming signing class.
The Volunteers don’t have an easy schedule the rest of the way, but this team could improve with more time to learn under Jones and his staff.
But will that be enough for Tennessee to get bowl eligible?
After a 3-2 Start, Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
In the preseason, I was more optimistic about Tennessee’s chances of making a bowl game. After five games under new coach Butch Jones, I think the Volunteers will fall short of reaching the postseason. Even with one of the nation’s best offensive lines and two solid running backs, Tennessee ranks last in the SEC in total offense. Quarterback play is a huge concern and isn’t likely to get much better the rest of the season. Things on the defensive side of the ball aren’t much better, as the Volunteers rank 12th in the SEC, allowing 5.8 yards per play and 26.8 points per game. The upcoming schedule won’t give Tennessee much of a break, as Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama are all likely losses. If the Volunteers are 3-5 heading into November as most expect, they would need to win three out of four games against this schedule: at Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and at Kentucky. Considering Missouri and Auburn are improved from last season, it’s tough to find three wins on that schedule. Jones will do a good job at Tennessee, but I think the Volunteers will miss out on the postseason.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
No disrespect intended to Joey Jones, but the Volunteers have looked like a glorified Sun Belt team this year. The offense is borderline inept while the defense hasn't shown much improvement from a year ago. That said, the Vols will be 3-5 (as expected) entering the final month of the year. This leaves four swings games to determine the postseason fate of Tennessee: Auburn and Vanderbilt at home, Missouri and Kentucky on the road. A 2-2 record in that stretch won't be good enough to get the Vols to a bowl game. Three wins in that stretch doesn't feel doable for this team, so it will be the third straight season with no postseason for Big Orange Nation.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I don’t think Tennessee will make a bowl game this year. The Vols just have too many problems to fix. Their issues start at quarterback. Justin Worley has struggled as the starter, but coach Butch Jones has been reluctant to give an opportunity to one of the true freshmen. Will that problem get solved against Georgia, Alabama or South Carolina? The defense lacks depth and elite talent. That’s a problem that can only be solved through recruiting.
Tennessee will likely enter November with a 3-5 record, which will put pressure on the Vols to produce a winning record in the final month. I picked Tennessee to beat Missouri at the beginning of the season. Right now, Missouri looks like the better team. It will be difficult for Tennessee to beat Missouri if quarterback James Franklin stays healthy. Tennessee will play Auburn and Vanderbilt at home, but winning both of those games would be asking a lot. Tennessee could turn things around and finish with a 6-6 record. But that doesn’t look likely right now.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
No. Tennessee is definitely moving in the right direction with Butch Jones, but I don’t see a bowl appearance in the cards for the Vols. They have three wins already and need just three more to become bowl eligible. The problem is that they don’t have an SEC win and that’s exactly who is left on their schedule. Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama are all sure losses. Those losses will drop them to 3-5, which puts Tennessee in a position where they need to go 3-1 against Missouri, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. While I’d say Kentucky is likely to be a win, the other three games are toss-ups. Missouri and Auburn are much improved from 2012 and Vanderbilt has turned into a tough opponent. With so much uncertainty and inconsistency at quarterback, I just can’t see Tennessee running the table at the back end of their schedule. The Volunteers will miss a bowl game for the third straight season.