How Tennessee Shakes Out in ESPN’s SEC Predictions

    by -

    Tennessee Football SEC

    Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker against SEC foe South Carolina in Knoxville. Photo by Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

    The 2022 Tennessee and SEC football seasons are just days away.

    With the excitement building toward the season, quite a few publications are looking to publish their final college football season predictions before games kick off this weekend.

    ESPN and Mark Schlabach released his 2022 college football conference predictions on Friday morning and did single out Tennessee at one point.

    For starters, Schlabach has Tennessee finishing third in the SEC East with an overall record of 8-4. Schlabach has Tennessee four games behind Georgia with a perfect record of 12-0 and one game behind Kentucky at 9-3.

    Tennessee does sit one game above South Carolina and Florida, who are projected to both finish with a regular season record of 7-5. Missouri comes next at 6-6 with Vanderbilt rounding out the SEC East at 3-9.

    The Vols do not carry any predictions from Schlabach in terms of postseason awards such as players of the year, coaches of the year, or games of the year. However, Schlabach does single out Tennessee for one of his three SEC bold predictions.

    “The Gators and Volunteers used to play in one of the sport’s most heated and competitive rivalries,” Schlabach wrote for ESPN. “With Steve Spurrier poking Tennessee whenever he could, it was annually one of the most anticipated contests in the SEC and went a long way toward deciding the SEC East champion. Since 2005, however, the Gators have remarkably won 16 of their past 17 games against the Volunteers, including five in a row. Tennessee’s only victory during that stretch was a 38-28 win at Neyland Stadium in 2016. Volunteers coach Josh Heupel will get his first win over Florida with a 38-27 victory at home on Sept. 24.”

    More from RTI: Tennessee WR Bru McCoy Granted Immediate Eligibility for 2022 Season

    The Tennessee/Florida game is circled on the schedule in bright red ink for a large chunk of the Tennessee fanbase. And for good reason, as well.

    After losing 16 of their last 17 matchups against the Gators, Tennessee needs to hit the reset button on one of their biggest rivals. And luckily for Tennessee, that’s kind of what has happened in the last two years.

    With Josh Heupel entering his second year in Knoxville and Billy Napier entering his first season in Gainesville, Tennessee has a chance to open a new chapter in their rivalry with the Gators. Not to mention, the game is in Knoxville with the Gators traveling for the Vols’ SEC opener.

    While it can be difficult to outright pick a win for Tennessee against Florida, this is a golden opportunity for the Vols to take advantage of a young Florida coach and put the past record in the rearview mirror moving forward.

    Tennessee and Florida will square off in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Vols will open up their 2022 season this Thursday night against Ball State at 7:00 p.m. ET.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.