Tennessee Volunteers Football: Where Are the Vols Poised for Upsets?

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIAugust 9, 2011

Tennessee Volunteers Football: Where Are the Vols Poised for Upsets?

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    Tennessee ended up placing 40th in the Coaches Poll, which is actually about where it should be. At least the coaches have some idea of what's going on—CBS ranked Tennessee at No. 63.

    There's a lot of hype and a lot of potential in Tennessee, but so far the Vols haven't proven anything on the field.

    Tennessee has a lot of lopsided games one way or the other in 2011 (according to any ranking), and some are more ripe for upset than others.

    Here's a look at what Tennessee's chances of being on the right or wrong sides of upsets are next year.

Hosting Montana (Tennessee Heavily Favored)

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    Montana is a dominant FCS, Big Sky program, and they've managed to win their conference title every year from 1998 to 2009.

    They have been so dominant that a chance to join an FBS conference just might be in the near future.

    However, last year resulted in a disappointing 7-5 season for the Grizzlies, and they've been picked to place third in their conference this year.

    If Montana were playing Tennessee at the height of its success, this could be a game, but Montana has been a little off recently.

    It shouldn't even be close.

    Tennessee is heavily favored, and the chances of Montana upsetting Tennessee in Knoxville are slim to none. 


    Chance of an Upset

    Five percent

Hosting Cincinnati (Tennessee Favored)

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    Just a few years ago, Cincinnati was playing Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, crowning an 11 win season with a bowl victory. The next year they had an undefeated regular season before losing to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

    Now, Brian Kelly is with Notre Dame, the Big East is the laughingstock of the BCS, and Cincinnati is coming off an embarrassing 4-8 record. Hard to believe they've fallen so far, so fast.

    One of the few bright spots for Cincinnati is running back Isaiah Pead, who had 1,029 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season. With one of the best running backs in the nation, Cincinnati's rushing attack should be potent, but it won't be enough to make up for the rest of their team.

    This game will be good practice for Tennessee as it prepares to face the even better rushing attacks of Alabama and Arkansas. 


    Chance of an Upset

    12 percent

At Florida (Florida Favored)

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    The first big test for both teams (Florida plays Florida Atlantic and UAB prior to Tennessee), this matchup has all the makings of a great game. Both Tennessee and Florida have something to prove coming into 2011, and both want this win badly.

    As I've already discussed, I think Tennessee will beat Florida, but I admit that my opinion is a bit biased. These should be very evenly matched teams: Florida has the advantage at defensive line, with the rushing attack, and with their linebacker corps. Tennessee has better receivers, a better defensive backfield, and a better quarterback.

    These teams are very even, but I have to objectively give the Gators a slight advantage in this game because they are playing at home.

    Regardless of who comes out on top, this will be perhaps the closest game for both teams.


    Chance of an Upset

    45 percent

Hosting Buffalo (Tennessee Heavily Favored)

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    If you haven't noticed yet, Tennessee has a creampuff out-of-conference schedule. Don't be too optimistic though; the SEC schedule is brutal.

    Buffalo is probably the worst team Tennessee will play next year. They went 2-10 in 2010 and were the only team in the country to lose to Akron. The team's only wins last year were against Rhode Island and Bowling Green.

    To add insult to injury, the Vols get to play the Bulls at home. Buffalo will do well to score. 


    Chance of an Upset

    No chance

Hosting Georgia (Georgia Favored)

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    Georgia could be heavily favored by the time they play Tennessee. Before the Vols meet the Dawgs, Georgia will have played Boise State, South Carolina, and Mississippi State. They'll know where they stand in the SEC, while Tennessee will still have something to prove, even if the Vols beat Florida.

    One thing I've learned about Georgia is that if they're a hot team when they play Tennessee, they lose a lot.

    In 2009, No. 14 Georgia had just lost to No. 4 LSU by a touchdown when they came to unranked Tennessee. Tennessee beat Georgia 45-19. In 2007, No.12 Georgia visits unranked Tennessee and loses 14-35. Before that, in 2006, No. 9 Georgia hosts No. 14 Tennessee and loses 33-51. It was the same in 2004.

    Recent history says that Georgia's being a better team doesn't mean they win. This will be a hard-fought game, and Tennessee has a good chance to pull the upset. 


    Chance of an Upset

    60 percent

Hosting LSU (LSU Heavily Favored)

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    This is the beginning of the roughest part of Tennessee's schedule. After LSU Tennessee visits Alabama then hosts South Carolina.

    That said, after the heartbreaking loss to LSU last year, this will be the game that the Vols want more than any other—more than Florida; more than Georgia; even more than Alabama.

    LSU got lucky last year and escaped with a win. Tennessee will play up to LSU's level in this one, and despite LSU being a contender for the national championship, Tennessee's will to win will keep this one close.

    Still, no matter how you slice it, LSU will be the better team. Tennessee could beat them, but Les the Mad Hatter will have done his homework for this one.


    Chance of an Upset

    35 percent

At Alabama (Alabama Heavily Favored)

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    Yes, it's Alabama, and with one of the oldest rivalries in the SEC, you typically throw out things like ranking.

    That said, I don't think Tennessee has much of a chance in this one.

    This game is away and is in the middle of three of the toughest games in the schedule. Tennessee will be worn down by the LSU game (but probably exhilarated if it turns into a victory) and won't be able to match Alabama.

    It's a sad truth, but Tennessee will simply be outmatched.


    Chance of an Upset

    12 percent

Hosting South Carolina (South Carolina Favored)

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    South Carolina will have the best team in the SEC East in 2011, but Tennessee gets to host this one.

    The Gamecocks are loaded with offensive weapons but will lack a strong offensive line. Their defense will be solid, too, but is porous enough for Tennessee to keep up with them.

    The biggest advantage South Carolina will have is the fact that they play Tennessee right after Tennessee has finished up with LSU and Alabama, maybe the toughest games on the Vols schedule.

    Still, it's a home game, and don't expect South Carolina to be that much better than Tennessee. South Carolina ought to come away with a win, but with Tennessee on their heels, a few big mistakes on Carolina's part could lose them the game.


    Chance of an Upset:

    35 percent

Hosting Middle Tennessee State (Tennessee Heavily Favored)

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    If Buffalo isn't the worst team that Tennessee faces, MTSU is.

    The Blue Raiders went to a bowl last year with a 6-6 record, but their wins were against FCS Austin Peay, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Western Kentucky (by one point), Florida Atlantic, and Florida International.

    One of their losses was to Memphis. This was Memphis's only victory in 2010.

    After playing the likes of LSU, Alabama, and South Carolina for three weeks, playing MTSU will feel like a walk in the park to Tennessee, and MTSU won't just lose.

    They'll get killed.


    Chance of an Upset

    One percent

At Arkansas (Arkansas Heavily Favored)

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    If I had to pick the game that I thought Tennessee had the least chance of winning, it'd be this one.

    Against LSU and South Carolina, Tennessee has the home-field advantage.

    Against Alabama, Tennessee has a historic rivalry, in the likes of which anything can happen.

    Neither of those things are present against Arkansas.

    Arkansas will be great in 2011. They lost Ryan Mallett, D.J. Williams, and DeMarcus Love, but they're still in good shape.

    With Tyler Wilson coming in as a more-than-competent replacement for Mallett and Knile Davis continuing to be one of the best running backs in the country, Arkansas will be a contender for the SEC West crown.

    Tennessee has next to no chance in this one, unfortunately.


    Chance for an Upset

    10 percent

Hosting Vanderbilt (Tennessee Favored)

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    The good ol' Vandy game.

    It's always nice to have a couple of games at the end of your schedule which are almost guaranteed wins, and this is one of them.

    This year, however, Vanderbilt will be a little bit better than they were last year, and it won't be an easy victory.

    For Vanderbilt, the game against Tennessee is their bowl game; it comes at the end of the year, and they get to play a team that is usually a contender (not so much recently, though).

    Tennessee will be a much better team, but Vanderbilt has a few good players this year, including middle linebacker Chris Marve, running back Warren Norman, and second-team All-SEC corner Casey Hayward.

    Despite having a few good players, Vanderbilt doesn't have enough, and, like Tennessee against Alabama, only has a chance because of the history of the rivalry. 


    Chance of an Upset

    30 percent

At Kentucky (Tennessee Favored)

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    This is one of the closest margins in Tennessee's schedule according to some rankings, and if Tennessee is going to be upset by a team they're favored over, it'll likely be Kentucky.

    Tennessee owns the longest active win streak against a team that they play every year, and it's against Kentucky. Tennessee has won the last 26 meetings.

    To give you an idea of how long that is, Tennessee hasn't lost to Kentucky since I've been born.

    Last year was supposed to be Kentucky's year to end the streak, but they fell short. Now they will face Tennessee without quarterback Mike Hartline, All-American wide receiver Randall Cobb, and running back Derrick Locke.

    They do still have All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan and are returning most of their starters.

    This could be a trap game for Tennessee, but since Tennessee will likely have six or seven wins at this point and will be playing for a big-name bowl, I think they'll still come away with the win. 


    Chance of an Upset

    45 percent