The real season is about to begin for Tennessee Football. UT has a 4-1 record coming out of its bye week. Although the loss at Florida was disappointing, all of the Vols’ goals are still on the table.
They also have plenty to prove coming out of their first five games. The competition will be much tougher moving forward. So what will happen the rest of the way? Here are five bold predictions for the rest of the Tennessee’s regular season.
1. Tennessee Football wins a game scoring less than 30 points.
Why is this a bold prediction? Because Heupel’s never done it.
Heupel’s teams are 0-9 when they score less than 30 points, including his time as UCF’s head
coach. That will change this season — and I think it changes this week.
Tennessee’s offense is capable of exploding. But the confidence that will happen any given week is down this season. The good news: confidence in the Tennessee Football defense is up.
Bru McCoy is out for the season, and the Vols’ passing game is a question. Joe Milton III and his receivers will have chances down the field this week. They might connect on enough of them.
However, the defense will lead the way and get Heupel his first career win without scoring at least 30
2. James Pearce Jr. records 10+ sacks
Pearce is already halfway there with more than half of the season remaining. The competition will get tougher, though.
Texas A&M has been susceptible to protection issues this season, but the Aggies have better personnel than previous Tennessee Football opponents. Other teams do, too, and they’ll be aware of Pearce.
I’m not sure it will matter. Pearce has five-star talent, and it’s shown this season. South Carolina couldn’t do anything about Pearce’s quickness and variation of moves. He’s a big reason the confidence has risen in Tennessee’s defense.
The Vols needed someone to emerge when Byron Young left for the NFL. Pearce, along with senior Tyler Baron, has done that. Reaching 10 sacks in a season is rare.
It’s happened 10 times in UT history. Three Tennessee Football players have done it since 2000: John Henderson, who won the Outland Trophy, Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett (he did it three times). Expect Pearce to join the list by the end of the season.
3. Next five Tennessee Football SEC games within 10 points
Buckle up for a wild ride the rest of the way. Tennessee Footbal is about to play a game it could win or lose. That will be the case the rest of the way, aside from the non-conference game against UConn
and the season finale against Vanderbilt.
This will require the Vols to make sure next week’s game at Alabama remains competitive –
and for the Vols to keep Georgia in check on Nov. 18. Auburn was able to do that at home against Georgia two weeks ago. Tennessee will do the same thanks to its aggressive defense and home-field advantage.
How many of these one-score games will Tennessee Football win? Well, they could win any of them. My official prediction is three out of five. But the Vols will have a chance to win them all.
4. Squirrel White will hit 1,000 receiving yards
This is going to take some serious work. White only has 276 receiving yards on the season. He needs to average close to 103.5 yards per game the rest of the way, and he’ll do that because of the opportunities moving forward.
Joe Milton III threw nine passes to White against South Carolina. He caught all nine balls for 104 yards. White will be a target monster moving forward and have multiple games that allow his yardage to sky rocket.
There are two concerns. First, White has almost no margin for error. He can’t have a bad game. Second, the workload will bring a risk of injury. If White goes down, that’s bad news for this prediction and even worse news for the offense.
With McCoy out and other receivers still trying to prove themselves, White has to step up on a
weekly basis. That opportunity will get him to 1,000 yards before December.
5. Nico Iamaleava takes a meaningful snap this season
We haven’t seen much of Tennessee’s star freshman. Calls from the fanbase for Nico have quieted, partly because the Vols have been off for two weeks.
How confident would coaches be if they have to rely on Iamaleava? I’m afraid we’ll find out before the end of the season.
Milton already went down once with a knee injury against UTSA. Fortunately, he bounced back and continued playing — then rehabbed enough to be OK to play against South Carolina.
I’m afraid that luck won’t hold up the entire season.
Every team has to prepare for its backup quarterback to play. Texas A&M is riding with No. 2 Max Johnson the rest of the way because of Connor Weigman’s injury.
Would Iamaleava be ready if he’s forced into duty?
The Tennessee Football coaches don’t want to find out yet. If it’s because of injury to Milton, I hope they don’t have to find out, either. But they better prepare for the possibility.