UT football season preview part 2

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The Briley Option

by Ben Briley


(continued from Wednesday)

Oct 19: Alabama - The Red Team

Good old Alabama. The team everyone respects but no one likes. The team that has gained more fans in a decade than soccer has lost in a decade. The last time we saw Alabama, they got embarrassed in the national championship game against Clemson. I’m sure they remember that well. There isn’t much to preview about this one. The Tide still has Heisman-finalist Tua Tagovailoa at QB, the best WR core in the SEC and the best defense in the SEC. Oh, and Nick Saban is still coach. I do think it’s a bit closer than last year’s 58-21 blowout, but Alabama is still too much for Tennessee as they are too much for everybody, except Clemson. Alabama 30 UT 14

Oct 26: South Carolina - The Muschamp Paradox

This is the only game that makes me nervous from a fan perspective. Tennessee matches up very well against South Carolina, as they do every year and as they do with every Will Muschamp coached team in eight straight outings. Tennessee has lost all eight of those games. It’s the same feeling as the 11-game losing streak to Florida; I’ll believe it when I see it. QB Jake Bentley, however, is very good at his job and may be the lone bright spot in a bevy of question marks for this team. There’s absolutely no reason why Tennessee should fall again to South Carolina. There wasn’t a good reason last season, or the season before that. South Carolina is projected to finish last or next to last in the SEC East this year but I’m strictly in show-me mode at this point. I’ll believe it when I see it. South Carolina 17 UT 14

Nov 2: UAB - Blazing Trails

The Blazers were the surprise blockbuster smash of last year, finishing their season 11-3 and a Conference USA title over my alma mater, MTSU. By the way, UAB didn’t even have a football program two years ago. By far Tennessee’s hardest non-conference game, it comes at a point in the season where Tennessee will either dominate or deflate. Still, Tennessee has the size, experience and overall scheme to beat UAB efficiently. Just like Georgia and Florida, this game will hinge on the performance against South Carolina to get a better sense of how UT will start off this game. UAB is no push over by any stretch of the imagination, but their defense is inexperienced and Chaney must be salivating at the opportunity to spread the field. Look for Tennessee’s backfield to have a solid game. UT 41 UAB 24

Nov 9: Kentucky - The Feral Barn Cats

Kentucky’s 2018 campaign was no fluke. Their first 10-win season in forever, a national caliber RB, stud defense and a good coaching staff, Kentucky rode the high life en route to a bowl victory against Penn State. Still, they couldn’t beat Tennessee, which I find hilarious. HC Mark Stoops has done a phenomenal job on the recruiting trail for Kentucky in his tenure. UK’s defense is completely depleted from last year and Tennessee should beat them again. DE Josh Allen was a headache for every tackle in the league last year, but they’ll have to rotate several players in and out of that position to replace him. Also, RB Benny Snell left for the NFL, and is Kentucky’s school leader in several categories. They’re just simply undermanned. It could be a rebuild more than a rebound, but Kentucky is one of those teams that’s hard to get a read on. Thankfully, by the time Tennessee travels to horse country, we should feel pretty comfortable about a win here. Side note: since alcohol is now being sold in most stadiums in the SEC, I think it’s time to bring back the Beer Barrel Trophy. UT 28 UK 23

Nov 23: Missouri - Banned from Entry

In two straight years, Tennessee has been mollywhopped by the Tigers, both by the same score, 50-17. I was at that game last year and was wet, cold and annoyed. This season, the aura around Missouri’s football program is a weird one. On the plus side, they have former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant, and, paired with Derek Dooley’s offense, should have a very big year in Columbia. However the down side, Missouri has no postseason to play for. After a tutor was caught giving “improper assistance,” which could be one of a million things, they were slapped with a postseason ban for 2019. Usually when teams are hit with a ban, they end up having sort of a wash season, but I have no doubt Mizzou will be playing spoiler, and doing it with a Maxwell-award finalist under center. I mentioned early how BYU was a mystery but Mizzou is the bigger mystery. I don’t think anyone knows how this season will play out for the Tigers, but I do know Tennessee can beat them. Their defense is notoriously soft and UT is bringing a much bigger, faster defense to Faurot Field this time around. Look for Darrell Taylor to break out in this one. UT 35 Mizzou 20

Nov 30: Vanderbilt - Little Brother Has Been Lifting Weights

Do you remember when Vanderbilt was an easy win year in and year out? Those were good times. Vandy has won five of the last seven matchups against Tennessee, something that hasn’t happened since Babe Ruth was still with the Boston Braves. Last year, Tennessee ended their season with the worst loss of the year and Vandy with the biggest win of the year en route to a bowl game. That shouldn’t happen again but what do I know? I said Tennessee would beat Vandy 63-0 last year. Don’t listen to me, I’m a known buffoon. QB Kyle Shurmur, surpassing Jay Cutler as the best QB in school history, returns to lead a solid offense for Vandy with some big targets to throw to. Their defense under HC Derek Mason is always stout, even though they’re rebuilding more so than usual. Look for Tennessee’s defense to figure out the Shurmur conundrum and finally beat Vanderbilt. I hate that I even have to say that. Tennessee 63 Vandy 0