The first official over/under win totals for the SEC came out this week and the 7.5 number assigned to the Vols speaks volumes about where Butch Jones has this football program. Keep in mind that these numbers aren’t predictions in the typical sense; rather, they are designed to entice bets. They speak, more than anything, to perception.
With the Vols at 7.5, Vegas thinks a large number of people believe the Vols will win eight games this season and thus bet the over. The over would leave the Vols with the most wins since the 2007 season – a season in which they won the SEC East and advanced to Atlanta. Sharpies in Vegas think a large number of people expect the Vols to turn in their best season in eight years this fall – the over is currently (-140) the favorite.
Even the under says good things about the program from a perception standpoint – it has room for the most regular season wins for Tennessee since 2009. A 7-5 season, though not what many Vol fans want, certainly wouldn’t be a disaster given the last decade of Tennessee football.
Don’t believe me? The Vols are 64-61 over the last 10 years. Just three games over .500. That should give fans some perspective on the rebuilding job Butch Jones inherited and prompt you to rethink what even a 7-5 season would mean for this program moving forward.
Dave Bartoo of CFBMatrix.com does things a little differently. Rather than set a number to entice bets, he projects win totals based on talent, home field advantage and coach effect. Bartoo says the Vols have the talent to go 8-4 but projects, with several big home games, for Tennessee to go 9-3 this season. That’s a leap forward from where he had Tennessee last year (6-6).
Vegas had the Vols at five wins at this time last season. That number moved to 5.5 just before the season kicked off. Though the Vols barely hit the over, they were a couple of close games away from obliterating it. You better believe Vegas knows that.
It was big for the Vols to play every SEC East opponent close (within one score) last season. Vegas thinks perception of Tennessee football is quickly rising. They believe the masses think Tennessee will go 7-5 or 8-4. That’s a significant improvement given the last decade of Vol football and would mark clear progress for the program.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to Butch Jones and the Vols to turn perception into reality this fall.