Football season is finally back! And with it comes the promise/impending dread of what’s to come.
Any other year, we would have a good idea of what to expect from our beloved Tennessee Vols.
But this year? This year, no ones knows exactly what to expect. Will Josh Heupel’s offense translate to the SEC? Will all of the new faces perform as well or better than expected? Will they actually show some life in the big SEC games?
Or will they do exactly what they’ve been doing for over a decade and just spin their wheels for another three months?
At this point, it’s hard to say. Normally, it’s somewhere in the middle.
But on this day, the day of a new season’s beginning, let’s look at the extremes. Because black and white sports takes are more fun than shades of grey.
Bowling Green, 9/2
Bowling Green shows up lost and doesn’t stand a chance from the start. Joe Milton throws for 300+ yards and Tennessee has three 100+ yard rushers. The offense is clicking, the defense looks better than anticipated, and, most importantly, Heupel doesn’t have to open up the playbook. Pitt doesn’t need to see any of the good stuff.
Vols win, 52-13
Georgia State, Part II: Electric Boogaloo.
Bowling Green wins, 38-30
Johnny Majors looks down from the Heavens on a great game. For three quarters. In the fourth, though, the Vols run away with it. They score three touchdowns in the last ten minutes. One on the ground, one through the air, and one on defense or special teams. Proving early on that this is one of the most complete teams Knoxville has seen in years. Tennessee looks like a legitimate top-25 team.
Vols win, 48-24
Reeling from a horrendous week 1 loss at home to Bowling Green, the Vols still can’t get their feet under them. Pitt asserts their will on a fledgling Tennessee defense, and the offense can’t even get into field goal range with any kind of consistency. Two games into Heupel’s Tennessee career, and he already looks like he’s in over his head.
Pitt wins, 34-14
Tennessee Tech, 9/18
It’s not close. The second and third-stringers are in before halftime, and the walk-ons get some time towards the end. Vols are 3-0 and rolling going into Florida week.
Oh, and injuries. No one gets injured.
Vols win, 55-13
Neyland is near empty after an 0-2 start, and Danny White tries to shame the fans. Again. Thinking some changes will help, new starters jog out and still look disjointed. Except for Harrison Bailey, who looks great in relief of a struggling Joe Milton. But gets benched for Hendon Hooker, anyway. Vols win, somehow, but Bailey announces he’s entering the transfer portal after the game.
Oh, and injuries. A bunch of people get injured.
Vols win, 31-21
The Vols are back baby! For the proud tradition of a top-25 match-up between Florida and Tennessee at 3:30 on CBS. The problem here is that Tennessee just doesn’t win in Gainesville. It hasn’t happened in a while, so it doesn’t seem fair to get everyone’s hopes up JUST KIDDING.
This is the best-case scenario heading. Meaning Florida is still reeling from getting pounded by Alabama the week before. And in anticipation of redeeming themselves on the road in Lexington the following week, they forget that Josh Heupel and his boys are on the come up.
Vols win a thriller in the Swamp.
Vols win, 38-35
Florida looks like the Spurrier/Meyer Florida teams of old. Aaaaaaaand they just beat top-ranked Alabama. Tennessee can’t overcome their injuries, Dan Mullen is the early favorite for coach of the year, and the proud tradition of Tennessee embarrassing themselves against the big three (Florida, Alabama, and Georgia) continues.
Florida wins, 45-10
Following last week’s thriller in Florida, Tennessee can ease off the gas a little bit late against a totally outclassed Missouri team. The preseason apprehension about the depth and how effective the offense would be are long gone. Josh Heupel is looking like a genius, and Jabari Small, Tiyon Evans, and Velus Jones all break 1000 all-purpose yards on the season.
Vols win, 54-24
Nerdy-ass Eliah Drinkwitz has his Tigers rolling and looking like contenders for the SEC East. Tennessee has tried every possible permutation of offensive line arrangement to no avail and has run out of healthy linebackers, so they have to resort to long snappers again. The Tennessee ball boy rolls his ankle climbing the M rocks to retrieve the field goal just kicked to close the score gap to 35. And yes, the band is playing Rocky Top, again.
Missouri wins, 59-24
South Carolina, 10/9
South Carolina brings water balloons to a gunfight. They can’t score on Tennessee’s vaunted defense and fail to stop the bleeding after Tennessee scores on the opening possession. 700 total yards and 5 forced turnovers later, Tennessee helps the Gamecocks limp back to their buses.
Vols win, 66-13
Heupel is in over his head. Hoping to galvanize a jaded fan base, Danny White tries to checker Neyland for the first time. And it fails, yet again. South Carolina has a 16-year-old at quarterback, and they win anyway in a rock fight.
South Carolina wins, 27-13
Ole Miss, 10/16
Kiffin gets booed running into Neyland and he wets his pants when a sorority girl in the first row accidentally makes eye contact with him. The game turns into a barn burner, but the Rebels can’t possibly hang. The Vols pull away late after an Alontae Taylor pick-6. Josh Heupel walks off the field with Dawn under one arm and Layla under the other.
Vols win, 62-49
Tennessee has resorted to walk-ons for defensive starters. Half of the unit that started the year is injured, the other half is in the transfer portal. Tim Banks is asked in the post-game press conference what went wrong, and he answers in Russian. Lane Kiffin becomes an honorary member of every UT fraternity, and his cucks scattered around the Tennessee fan base get to circle the wagons.
Ole Miss wins, 52-17
Joe Milton finally has his coming-out party. To this point, Milton was just a shadow. A secret that only Tennessee fans knew. A rumor that other teams didn’t believe until it was too late.
Now? Now he’s a Heisman Trophy candidate. He’s averaging almost 400 passing yards a game with a 10-1 TD-Interception ratio.
Tennessee shows that they are officially “back”. Nick Saban announces he’s retiring at the end of the season, citing a desire to focus on personal health.
Vols win, 31-21
Pretty much the same thing that has happened the last five seasons.
The NCAA announces at the end of the third quarter a 10-year postseason ban and a 50% scholarship reduction for Tennessee’s football program as fallout for the Jeremy Pruitt Experience. Rumors are swirling that Heupel has “lost the locker room” after a 1-7 start.
Alabama wins, 49-7
Bye Week, 10/30
Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing of note happens beyond bruises healing and practice continuing. No injuries in practice, no players going into the portal, no coaches getting arrested for money laundering, nothing.
Danny White gives Heupel the dreaded vote of confidence and tells Vol fans to be patient. The Vols are 1-7 with Kentucky and Georgia still to go.
The Kentucky game goes back to where it belongs in the Tennessee football lexicon. It’s over at half and the backups get some playing time, late. The Wildcats rush the ball 50 times for 47 yards. A dull and listless affair, nothing to see here.
Elsewhere, Georgia is undefeated on the season, but barely takes one against Missouri. Setting up a top-10 showdown in Neyland the following weekend.
Vols win, 34-3
Mark Stoops walks out of the tunnel with shorts on even though it’s 20 degrees outside. He’s the early favorite to take the now open Nebraska job and is trying everything he can to get Kentucky an SECCG birth on his way out. Tennessee has six turnovers, and Josh Heupel concludes his post-game presser with “We just need some more time.”
Kentucky wins, 31-10
A top-10 match-up in Neyland, and there isn’t a seat unclaimed. It’s a cool November night. The south endzone of Neyland stadium is a step short of anarchy. Kirby Smart calls the Vols “overrated” in the lead-up to the game, prompting Joe Milton to flex out of the shirt he’s wearing when they shake hands at midfield before the game.
A football game breaks out between fights. Tennessee is rolling on the ground, but the Georgia defense is locking Tennessee down through the air. Heupel whips the hog out and puts it on the table, calling a fake punt with three minutes left in a tie game. The gamble pays off three plays later, when Jabari Small strolls in untouched on a reverse from eight yards out to win the game.
Vols win, 31-24
Noon kickoff in an empty Neyland Stadium. Kirby Smart calls the Vols “underrated” in the lead-up to the game, prompting Vol fans everywhere to roll their eyes out of the back of their head. Heupel somehow throws an interception, even though he’s out of eligibility. The wheels have officially fallen off, and the coaching hot boards are coming together.
Georgia wins, 45-17
South Alabama, 11/20
See the Tennessee Tech best-case scenario. No injuries and no problems. Harrison Bailey breaks 1000 yards passing from all of the playing time he’s been getting in blowouts throughout the season.
Somewhere, Trey Wallace smiles through the tears.
Vols win, 66-7
Somebody, somewhere says “Well, it can’t get any worse”, and things promptly get worse. So much worse.
USA shows up 10-0 and looking to make a push for a NY6 bowl. Tennessee is in shambles, and most players can’t even hold the ball correctly. Let alone, run in the right direction.
After the thousands of Jaguars fans and hundreds of Vol fans have left the game, there’s a gas explosion inside Neyland Stadium, nearly collapsing the entire structure. Danny White takes the insurance payout for himself and promptly skips town. Happy 100 years, Neyland!
Somewhere, Trey Wallace smiles through the tears.
South Alabama wins, 33-17
Everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and the Vols close out their perfect regular season against the ‘Dores with no issues. Joe Milton has all but locked up the Heisman Trophy, and the Josh Heupel statue has been quoted.
Vols win, 48-14
Heupel has a mental breakdown after the South Alabama loss/Neyland explosion and steps down as head coach. But he still gets his buyout, somehow. Alex Golesh gets promoted to interim head coach and Mike Gundy gets another raise.
Golesh’s team has a pulse in the first half but falls off in the second. The slightly above-average first half is enough for newly minted AD Jason Witten to make Golesh the highest-paid head coach in the SEC on a lifetime contract.
Also, since Neyland has fallen, they have to play this game at Knox Catholic on the Butch and Barb Jones field. Or whatever it’s called.
Vandy wins, 6-3
End of Regular Season
UNDEFEATED!!! Joe Milton wins Tennessee’s first Heisman Trophy, and Josh Heupel starts his long, illustrious career as one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Feels like a video game or a movie. It is neither. It’s all real and super plausible, maybe.
Tennessee finishes the year 1-11, Neyland Stadium is literally a pile of rubble, and Jason Witten is our new AD. That’s the worst possible scenario I could think of for this season. Let us know how you think it could get worse.