ESPN FPI Predicts Dire Season for Vols in 2019

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    Photo by Jake Nichols/RTI

    Before the 2017 season, Tennessee’s football program had never lost eight games in a single season in school history. Now, ESPN’s Football Power Index is predicting that the Vols will lose eight games in a season for the second time in three years.

    After Tennessee’s embarrassing loss to Georgia State on Saturday, the Vols fell nearly two dozen spots in the overall standings in ESPN’s FPI. Tennessee is now No. 38 in the overall rankings, and their chances of winning enough games to make it to a bowl game have plummeted according to the FPI algorithm.

    According to the FPI, Tennessee is only favored to win four of their remaining 11 games this season, meaning the most likely outcome for the Vols in 2019 is a 4-8 record. The FPI gives the Vols a 72.9 percent chance of winning this Saturday’s game against BYU in Knoxville, and Tennessee has a 97.7 percent likelihood of beating FCS opponent UT-Chattanooga the following week. ESPN’s FPI also gives the Vols a 93.9 percent shot at beating UAB in November, and the Vols have a 71.5 percent chance of beating Vanderbilt to end the regular season.

    Other than those games, Tennessee is expected to lose every other contest on their schedule.

    It’s no surprise that the FPI gives Tennessee little-to-no chance of beating Alabama (4.3 percent), Georgia (14.9 percent), or Florida (17.2 percent), but the Vols are also seen as underdogs against Kentucky (34.4 percent), Mississippi State (39.2 percent), and Missouri (41.8 percent).

    The only true toss-up game left on UT’s schedule according to the FPI is the Vols’ match-up with South Carolina in Knoxville on October 26th. Tennessee is given a 49.7 percent chance of winning that game, essentially making it a 50/50 game.

    According to the FPI rankings, Tennessee’s offensive efficiency after one game ranks 105th among the 130 teams in the FBS, and their defensive efficiency is 115th. Overall, the Vols’ efficiency as an entire team is 113th (special teams is ranked 21st in efficiency).

    Georgia State, the team Tennessee just lost to on Saturday, has an FPI ranking of 90. The only teams left on UT’s schedule with a lower ranking are UTC (no ranking) and UAB (117th). BYU (51st) and Vanderbilt (55th) are the only other teams on Tennessee’s schedule ranked outside of the top 50 in the FPI rankings.

    The Vols have only gone 4-8 once in school history, and that was just two seasons ago in 2017 when Tennessee went winless in SEC play for the first time ever as well. The FPI is predicting Tennessee will win one SEC game in 2019, but their overall record will still be 4-8 thanks to Saturday’s loss to the Panthers.

    Tennessee has won four or fewer games in two seasons in a three-year span only once since joining the SEC in 1933. If the Vols were to go 4-8 this season, their 13 wins over the last three seasons would be the fewest since Tennessee went a combined 13-16-1 from 1961 through 1963. Bowden Wyatt went 4-6 in 1962, and that was followed up by Jim McDonald’s 1963 squad going 5-5. Doug Dickey took over in 1964, and his first UT team went 4-5-1.

    In order for the Vols to even get to a bowl game in 2019 according to ESPN’s FPI, they’ll have to win the four games they’re favored in, win their toss-up game against South Carolina, and then pull an upset over a team like Missouri, Mississippi State, or Kentucky.

    Missing a bowl game in 2019 would be considered a major disappointment for Vol fans. But if Jeremy Pruitt’s second team goes 4-8 on the year, then the season would be a complete disaster.