As I continue my bid to become a featured columnist for Tennessee football, I will go out on numerous limbs as I predict Tennessee's schedule, game by game.
The Vols have a few variables this season (i.e. quarterback, new head coach, wide receivers), but I believe they will be better than most pundits have predicted, as explained in my previous article.
Keeping that in mind, I have high hopes for Tennessee to turn some heads this year.
September 5, vs. Western Kentucky
This one is a clear win, most likely a blow out. Jonathan Crompton starts to show why he was recruited, and throws for a couple touchdowns. Bryce Brown and Montario Hardesty will carve up the defense, combining for 250 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Eric Berry will break the record for interception return yards in his very first game of the season, as the defense has an easy time with Western Kentucky.
September 12, vs. UCLA
After a three point loss at UCLA in last year's season opener, Tennessee will have revenge on their mind. Crompton continues to build confidence by throwing well, and the running game paired with UT's defense will take care of the rest.
September 19, at Florida
No, I'm not going to go and predict a win at Florida for my Vols. I'm not that deluded. It will be a lot closer than last year's 30-6 debacle at home though. I would love to see Tennessee go to Florida and send a message to the world by making Florida fans nervous. I'll say Florida wins by four, but it's not pretty.
September 26, vs. Ohio
Tennessee should not take Ohio lightly, a team that was beating Ohio State 14-12 going into the fourth quarter last year. However, I expect UT to come away from this one , winning with ease and building on the Florida game.
October 3, vs. Auburn
Auburn will be a tougher game, as UT head into the meat of their schedule. After beating a Tennessee team struggling to find an identity, and close games with LSU, Vanderbilt, and Georgia, Auburn shouldn't be a pushover.
Expect this game to be a lower scoring defensive battle, but Tennessee—led by the lately blooming Crompton—to score a couple of times late in the second half. The running game combines for a couple hundred yards and a couple of touchdowns, and Crompton throws a touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to separate them from Auburn.
October 10, vs. Georgia
This will be a very interesting game, as the unknown Tennessee Volunteers face the re-tooling Georgia Bulldogs. We should have a better idea for how this game will shape up as the season progresses, but as of now, it completely fascinates me.
I expect this game to be a little higher scoring than the Auburn game, as Georgia have a better offense than Auburn. How Joe Cox and Caleb King perform stepping for Stafford and Moreno respectively is yet to be seen, but expect this game to be a very good, and the now confident Crompton to lead UT past Georgia.
Once again, the running game sets the tone for UT, and the defense, mainly the secondary, will prevent Georgia from putting up big numbers.
October 24, at Alabama
Much like the Florida game, UT will go into Alabama and play well in a defensive battle, but Alabama's homefield advantage will be too much, and win by about a touchdown. I'd say Tennessee will put up a score in the low 20's, but it won't be quite enough. It is entirely possible that UT can use their bye week wisely, and come out fresh, playing well enough to win at 'Bama, but it is unlikely.
October 31, vs. South Carolina
I would compare the South Carolina game to the Auburn game, somewhat of a defensive struggle, but Tennessee winning by a little more than a touchdown. South Carolina had a much better record than Auburn last year, but they did it by simply winning the games they were supposed to.
SC lost a few key players in the NFL draft, such as Jared Cook, Emmanuel Cook, and Captain Munnerlyn. Tennessee will put up a couple touchdowns early, and hang on the rest of the way.
November 7, vs. Memphis
This shouldn't be much of a contest, and the Tennessee offense will show up and take care of business, with no less than five touchdowns. The defense will completely overpower Memphis, and Tennessee will get warmed up for the Mississippi game next week.
November 14, at Mississippi
Having Memphis at home the week before a trip to Ole Miss might be just what the doctor ordered for Tennessee.
After an easy win against Memphis, getting to stay home and prep for Mississippi will prove to be key for Tennessee. This will be a very good game, with scores in the 30's, and will remain very tight until the end.
I forecast a slim Tennessee lead with a minute left in the fourth quarter, and Jevan Snead, who will have thrown three touchdowns earlier in the game, will throw an interception to Eric Berry, who will take it to the house and put the game out of reach.
November 21, vs. Vanderbilt
With wins against South Carolina, Mississippi, Auburn, Tennessee, and Boston College last year, Vanderbilt will also be an interesting team in 2009. Hopefully the win against Mississippi the previous week won't cause UT to take Vanderbilt lightly, but Tennessee should be fine. Vanderbilt look like a middle of the road team, and Tennessee will use their dominant ground game to push past the Commodores.
November 28, at Kentucky
Kentucky were no pushovers last year, giving South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Vanderbilt a tough time. However, if Tennessee have gone 9-2 thus far, they won't slip up to Kentucky in the last game of the season. Crompton will show off his arm a little, and Tennessee will advance to a bowl game once again.
What do you think? 10-2 is pretty steep, and I could see them losing to either Ole Miss or Georgia, but I couldn't see them losing to both.
Maybe 9-3 is more realistic, but I believe in this Tennessee team. I know I'll get blasted, but I sincerely believe 9-3 is where Tennessee belongs. I'm just taking a little leap of faith putting them at 10-2.