Tennessee is facing some long losing streaks heading into the 2018 season. Can they find a way to end a couple of them in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season as head coach?
The Vols were able to end some extended losing streaks in 2016 when they finally beat Florida after 11 consecutive years of losing and when they finally defeated Georgia in Athens for the first time since 2006. That season looked promising at the start, but Tennessee ultimately floundered down the stretch of the season and failed to win the SEC East after a 5-0 start.
Tennessee isn’t in a spot to really compete for the SEC East this season, so that pressure is off the Vols right now. But ending at least one of these losing streaks this season would be a big positive step for Jeremy Pruitt in his first year, and it would show Vol fans that he and his staff have what it takes to do things a lot of other Vol coaches haven’t been able to accomplish lately.
Let’s take a look at some of the longest losing streaks the Vols are facing this season.
This is a stat that I credit to Tony Basilio of the sports talk show The Tony Basilio Show. He and his crew figured out that the Vols have lost 31 consecutive games when they’ve been double-digit underdogs. Tennessee will have plenty of opportunities to end that streak this season, and it starts with their first game against No. 17 West Virginia.
Right now, Tennessee is listed as a 10-point underdog to the Mountaineers by most betting services. The last time the Vols defeated an opponent as a double-digit underdog was when they took down Georgia 19-14 in 2004. Since then, the Vols have been a 10-point or more underdog 31 times, and they’ve lost all 31 of those contests.
The Vols haven’t beaten a team ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Poll in over a decade. The last time Tennessee defeated a team ranked in the top 10 was in 2006 when they defeated No. 10 Georgia 51-33 in Athens. Since then, the Vols have lost 28 consecutive contests to teams ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Pol..
Tennessee has defeated a few top-15 teams over the last 12 seasons, but they’ve never taken down a top-10 opponent since that 2006 match-up with Georgia. The Vols defeated No. 12 Georgia in 2007, No. 11 South Carolina in 2013, and No. 12 Northwestern at the end of the 2015 season. But no top 10 team has been beaten by UT since 2006.
Another double-digit losing streak the Vols are facing this season is their drought against SEC West opponents. The Vols haven’t defeated any team from the SEC West since they beat Ole Miss 52-14 back in 2010. But ever since that game, Tennessee hasn’t beaten any opponent from the West.
Tennessee, of course, hasn’t beaten Alabama in over a decade and plays them every year. But every other opponent they’ve played from the West over the last seven seasons has resulted in a loss as well. The closest the Vols got to ending that streak was when they faced Texas A&M in 2016 and took them to double overtime on the road. But Tennessee ultimately lost that game too.
Nick Saban has owned the Vols over the last decade-plus. And that goes beyond just his time at Alabama.
Yes, the Vols have lost the last 11 games against Alabama, and all of those have come at the hands of Saban, But Tennessee also lost to Saban when he coached at LSU. The last time the Vols played Saban while he was coaching LSU saw Tennessee lose to his Tigers 31-20 in the SEC Championship Game. The Vols defeated the Tigers earlier that season, but that’s the only game UT has ever won against Saban. Otherwise, they’re 1-13 against him and have lost the last 12 games.
As mentioned above, the Vols have lost 11 consecutive contests against Alabama. The last time Tennessee beat the Tide was before Nick Saban took over as head coach. Since then, UT hasn’t found a way to beat Alabama.
Tennessee’s last victory against Alabama was in 2006 when the Vols eked out a 16-13 victory in Knoxville. That marks the last time the Vols were able to knock of the Tide, and almost every defeat since then has been a blowout by Alabama.
The Vols are facing two losing streaks of six games this season that they could possibly end. One of them is their losing streak to the Auburn Tigers.
Tennessee hasn’t been able to beat Auburn the last six times the two teams have met, and the last time the Vols actually defeated the Tigers was all the way back in the 90s. Tennessee’s last victory against Auburn was a 24-0 win in the 1999 season. The Vols haven’t beaten Auburn in six meetings since, and the last time the two met in 2013 was a lopsided affair that saw the Tigers hand the Vols a 55-23 defeat in Knoxville.
The other six-game losing streak the Vols are facing this season is their drought against head coach Will Muschamp.
If you thought Tennessee’s losing streak to Nick Saban was bad, then their losing streak against Muschamp will make you sick. At least Saban has been winning multiple SEC and national titles; Muschamp has just been owning the Vols. Muschamp has never lost to Tennessee as head coach, defeating them all four years he was at Florida and winning his first two contests against them while leading South Carolina.
Tennessee has never beaten Will Muschamp. Can Jeremy Pruitt finally be the coach to end that dubious streak?
Just looking at the regular season, the Vols haven’t beaten a ranked non-conference team in several years. Tennessee has taken down ranked opponents in their last three bowl games in 2016, 2015, and 2014, but they haven’t beaten a ranked non-conference team in the regular season in over a decade.
The last time Tennessee took down a ranked non-conference opponent in the regular season was in 2006 when the Vols shocked No. 9 California 35-18 in Knoxville. Tennessee was coming off a 5-6 season in 2005 and were big underdogs against the Golden Bears. Does that sound familiar this year? The Vols have a chance to end this losing streak when they face No. 17 West Virginia to start this season.
While certainly not as long as it’s been in the past, the Vols’ losing streak against ranked opponents is now at four games. Tennessee lost all four contests they played against ranked teams last season, and the only one that was even close was their game against Florida. Of course, the Gators didn’t finish the season ranked, though.
Tennessee’s last win against a ranked opponent came against No. 24 Nebraska in the Music City Bowl to end the 2016 season. Their last win against a ranked team in the regular season came in 2016 as well when the Vols defeated No. 25 Georgia on a Hail Mary. Tennessee also beat No. 19 Florida that season.
The last major streak the Vols are facing heading into this season is their losing streak against ranked teams on the road. Tennessee has lost three consecutive contests against ranked opponents on the road. Their last win against a ranked team in a true road game came in 2016 when the Vols beat No. 25 Georgia in Athens on that famous Hail Mary. Since then, the Vols have lost to Texas A&M, Florida, and Alabama on the road.