The Volunteers ended 2008 near the bottom of the SEC with a 5-7 record and only three wins in the conference. Tennessee fans are looking for big changes as new head coach Lane Kiffin enters his first year in Knoxville. The schedule has several factors that could either elevate the team to a bowl game or give them an early start on recruiting for 2010.
The second week of the season features a home game against UCLA, who also had a letdown year in 2008. Tennessee will have to do a better job than they did last year of capitalizing on turnovers from the Bruins. UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw four picks but the Vols still suffered a huge letdown 27-24. Tennessee will need to be careful to not look ahead to the Florida game the next week and stay focused on taking care of the Bruins.
The biggest game of the year for everyone in Vol nation is the September 19 match up against the Florida Gators in The Swamp. Although Florida has superior talent and experience, Kiffin has made this game interesting with his comments about “singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year.”
The rivalry has become even more heated through Kiffin’s other comment accusing Urban Meyer of illegally contacting a recruit. Tennessee will have a hard time coming out of The Swamp with a win but all eyes will be on the Vols at 3:30 that afternoon.
After a game against Ohio, the next four games, (Auburn, Georgia, @Alabama, South Carolina), will define who the Vols are and solidify their chances at being a relevant team in the SEC in 2009.
With four games left against Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, will Tennessee still be relevant or will it be too late? Will they be able to become bowl eligible? Can Tennessee make it to November with a winning record or will they drop more than four of their first eight games?