This just in: Tennessee Football is not going to go undefeated this season.
Before the Vol Nation goes ballistic over that outlandish prediction, keep in mind that only five SEC teams have gone undefeated in a season since Tennessee’s 1998 national championship – and Auburn has done it the most since 1993 (three times).
The over-under win total from Vegas is 9.5.
That is a reasonable number.
Matching last season’s 11-2 mark will be a great challenge. So many things must go just right. Joe Milton III must have a banner season. The offensive line must remain healthy. The defense must generate sacks. The secondary must cover somebody.
And you’ve got to play the two best programs in the nation over the past six years: Alabama and Georgia. Not to mention road trips to Florida and Kentucky.
Optimism reigns on Rocky Top – thanks to what Josh Heupel has accomplished in his first two years at the helm.
But assuming the Vols don’t go 15-0, which SEC loss would be the most worrisome from this trio: Florida, South Carolina or Texas A&M?
The fans vote on a poll conducted by the SportsSource TV show in Knoxville said it was Florida, which got 54% of the votes. South Carolina got 44%. The Aggies 2%.
Texas A&M is a non-factor since Tennessee Football rarely plays Jimbo Fishers’ team.
But the other two opponents are worth examining.
Tennessee hasn’t won at Florida since 2003, but the Gators are coming off a losing record, lost a quarterback who was the No. 4 pick in the NFL draft and are still rebuilding in a major way under Billy Napier.
South Carolina rattled Tennessee’s cage behind quarterback Spencer Rattler, 63-38, costing the Vols any chance of being a College Football Playoff team.
So which loss would be more worrisome to the Tennessee Football fan base?
Because if you open SEC play with a defeat against an inferior Gator team, questions arise and confidence erodes.
If you lose in Gainesville, that means Milton probably didn’t have a good game, opening speculation over whether to go with a freshman quarterback. Or the run game was non-existent. Or the defense was awful.
It also raises this concern: If you can’t beat Florida, can you beat South Carolina? Or A&M? Or Kentucky?
If South Carolina is your first SEC loss, then you’re probably 4-1 heading into an open date before hosting Texas A&M.
You can survive losing to South Carolina for a second year in a row.
You raise the worry bar if you lose at Florida.
Since the SEC was formed in 1933, Alabama has had eight undefeated, untied seasons. Bear Bryant had three, Saban and Frank Thomas two each, Gene Stallings one.
Auburn has had four by four different coaches.
Florida has never gone undefeated but has had two winless seasons.
Georgia has gone undefeated twice (2022, 1980).
Tennessee has also had two: 1998 and 1938.
LSU, likewise, has had two: 2019, 1958 – but they did go 7-0-3 in 1933.
Ole Miss went undefeated in 1962 and 10-0-1 in 1960.
Vanderbilt had two unbeaten teams during the World War II years with a limited schedule, otherwise, nope.
Kentucky has never gone undefeated as an SEC team.
Mississippi State was 10-0-1 in 1940.
As non-SEC teams, Missouri went undefeated and untied in 1960, Arkansas in 1964, Texas A&M in 1939.
South Carolina has never gone unblemished.