Recently, New Arena ranked the 15 teams they felt had a chance to win the upcoming national championship in college football. Checking in at No. 15 on that list were the Tennessee Volunteers. Many people will immediately jump to “They say that every year!!” However, Tennessee has only been picked to win the East once in the past decade (2016) by the media. However unrealistic winning a national championship may be for Tennessee this fall, there is a scenario in which that could occur:
**This is a fictitious scenario that will not happen, do not mistake this for a prediction**
Quinten Dormady emerges as the starter early and puts the QB competition to bed. Jarrett Guarantano decides to stick it out, opting to fight for his job rather than transfer. John Kelly puts on a show in limited action, while Ty Chandler shows that he’s the RB1 of the future.
Brandon Johnson steps up across from Jauan Jennings while Tyler Byrd and Latrell Williams show out in the slot. Defensively, Jonathan Kongbo and Kyle Phillips simply stay healthy and continue to grow at the defensive end spots. Darrin Kirkland has a nice easy camp and avoids injury. Shaq Wiggins arrives on campus and learns the defensive schemes, while Charlton Warren coaches up the rest of the group.
Week 1: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-0)
Against Paul Johnson and the triple option offense, the Tennessee defense struggles out of the gate. After being scorched on the ground on the opening drive, Bob Shoop galvanizes the troops and holds Georgia Tech to three straight three and outs.
Offensively, Quinten Dormady comes out blazing, completing 10 passes to eight different receivers, including two touchdown strikes to Jauan Jennings and Eli Wolf. In the second half, Georgia Tech comes out and re-establishes the ground game, but the drive stalls with an timely interception in the red zone by Todd Kelly Jr.
The fourth quarter begins at 24-7, and Georgia Tech goes on a little run to open the frame. They close the gap to 24-17, until John Kelly punches it in from the 2 yard line for his second score to put the game away. Final score: Tennessee 34, Georgia Tech 17.
Week 2: Indiana State Sycamores (1-0)
If this game is an issue, then Tennessee has major problems. Shades of Tennessee Tech. Final score: Tennessee 56, Indiana State 3.
Week 3: Florida Gators (2-0)
This is the big one. This game will likely define Tennessee’s season. The game opens better than last year’s, with a 10-3 Florida advantage at the end of the first quarter. Quinten Dormady struggles in the opening frame, but rebounds in the second quarter with a beautiful fade-pass touchdown to Brandon Johnson, followed up by a drive-killing sack by Darrell Taylor. Tennessee gets the ball back with two minutes to go in the half, but Quinten Dormady is intercepted by Chauncey Gardner and returned to set up a field goal as time expires. Florida takes a 13-10 lead into the half.
In the second half, John Kelly comes out running angry, carrying Tennessee down the field. Tennessee is forced to settle for a field goal, but Florida struggles to run the ball as the game goes on. Tennessee comes back out with the score tied 13-13, and immediately Ty Chandler rips off a huge run to midfield. Dormady then completes several quick passes, capping off the drive with a scoring strike to Ethan Wolf.
The Swamp goes silent as Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks is picked off by Justin Martin, taking it back for a touchdown. Final score: Tennessee 27, Florida 13.
Week 4: UMass Minutemen (3-0)
See Indiana State Sycamores. Final score Tennessee 42, UMass 13.
Week 5: Georgia Bulldogs (4-0)
Both teams come into this matchup sitting at 4-0, with Georgia coming off a hard-fought win against Mississippi State. The fatigue shows in the first quarter, with Tennessee moving the ball at will, including an Evan Berry score on a kickoff. Georgia’s offense is caught in quicksand for much of the half. Nick Chubb breaks the slump, slipping a tackle and outracing the defense for a long score. The score remains a 17-7 Vols advantage until the half runs out.
Tennessee comes out in the second half and drives to midfield, only for Trenton Thompson to force the ball out from Ty Chandler’s grip. Georgia seizes momentum, and Jacob Eason tosses an impressive touchdown grab to Terry Godwin. Tennessee comes back with a field goal, however Georgia grabs the lead with another Nick Chubb touchdown.
With the score 21-20, Tennessee marches down the field, and with three seconds to go, Aaron Medley comes on to attempt a 41 yard field goal for the win. The kick banks off the right upright, and goes in. Final score Tennessee 23, Georgia 21.
Week 6: South Carolina (5-0)
Evan Berry starts this game with a long kickoff return, followed up by a John Kelly touchdown on a screen play. The offense stalls out after that, and Bentley throws for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. South Carolina takes a 17-10 lead into the break. After the intermission, Tennessee buckles down and grounds out 150 rushing yards while stifling South Carolina’s run game.
Clinging to a 27-24 lead, Tennessee’s pass rush gets to Bentley, with Jonathan Kongbo forcing a fumble and allowing Tennessee to run out the clock. Final score: Tennessee 27, South Carolina 24.
Week 7: Alabama (6-0)
College GameDay is in Tuscaloosa for a matchup of the No. 1 Crimson Tide against the No. 6 Vols. After a huge third-down stop to open the game, Tennessee goes on offense and takes a 7-0 lead on a John Kelly run. After Jalen Hurts takes a huge sack on second down, Tennessee gets the ball back and puts up three more to take a 10-0 lead. Alabama comes storming back with a long Damien Harris touchdown run and a Calvin Ridley end-around score to take a 14-10 lead into the break.
After half, Alabama sacks Dormady and forces a fumble, leading to another easy touchdown pass. Tennessee answers back on the strength of a Jauan Jennings touchdown grab over Tony Brown. With two minutes to go, down 21-17, Tennessee has no answer for Jalen Hurts and Bo Scarbrough on the ground. Final score: Alabama 28, Tennessee 17.
Week 8: Kentucky Wildcats (6-1)
Back to back road games make for a slow start for the Vols, as Benny Snell and Stephen Johnson run wild on the first drive. The drive stalls and the Wildcats kick a field goal. Tennessee comes roaring back in the second quarter, down 3-0, dropping three touchdowns on the worn out Wildcats defense. Tennessee carries a 24-10 lead into the break. The second half is more of the same, and true freshman Ty Chandler breaks out with 150 yards from scrimmage and two total touchdowns. Final score: Tennessee 41, Kentucky 24.
Week 9: Southern Miss Golden Eagles (7-1)
This game should be tougher than the other two “cupcakes”, but it should still be a stat-padding opportunity. Final score: Tennessee 38, Southern Miss 10.
Week 10: Missouri Tigers (8-1)
The past two years, Tennessee has struggled with Missouri early only to pull away late. This year, they waste no time. While Missouri’s offense is improved, so is Tennessee’s defense. An early forced fumble on punt coverage by little-used reserve linebacker Elliott Berry sets Tennessee’s offense up in prime position, and Carlin Fils-Aime capitalizes to give the Vols a two-score lead late in the first quarter. The Tennessee defense stifles the Missouri offense, and Tennessee does just enough to squeeze by. Final score: Tennessee 38, Missouri 20.
Week 11: LSU Tigers (9-1)
On a cold November afternoon, Neyland Stadium is packed as two of the top teams in the SEC come to town. In a back-and-forth affair, Tennessee trades blows with LSU for the entire game. Derrius Guice gets his yards, but doesn’t run wild. Nick Brossette and “Baby Fournette” can’t find room to ramble, and John Kelly is largely rendered ineffective. Tennessee has success throwing the ball, but can’t get many yards after the catch.
This game is decided on an Evan Berry kickoff return to the red zone late in the fourth quarter, which inspires Quinten Dormady to connect on a slant pattern with Latrell Williams, who simply outruns his defender into the end zone. On the Tigers’ final drive, Danny Etling does his best Johnny Manziel impression, eluding a sack from Jonathan Kongbo, only to throw it late over the middle into the waiting arms of Darren Kirkland Jr. Final score: Tennessee 17, LSU 10.
Week 12: Vanderbilt Commodores (10-1)
With the season on the line, Tennessee must beat Vanderbilt to go to a major bowl. Sound familiar? This time, Vanderbilt comes to the friendly confines of Neyland Stadium and Tennessee takes advantage.
Kyle Shurmur fails to move the chains early, and Tennessee takes advantage of a Zach Cunningham-less defense. Quinten Dormady makes his player-of-the-week-case, throwing for 350 yards and five touchdowns, three of which go to Jauan Jennings. Defensively, Darrin Kirkland Jr. racks up double-digit tackles and stuffs Ralph Webb the whole game. While Vanderbilt can’t find a way to score, Tennessee does so almost at will, making up for last year’s loss. Final score: Tennessee 44, Vanderbilt 20.
SEC Championship vs. Alabama (11-1)
In a regular season rematch, the defenses rule the day. Through the first half, the teams combine for 250 yards and ten points, with Alabama holding onto a 7-3 lead. In the second half, the Tennessee offense finds some rhythm, as Quinten Dormady goes 10 of 12 to start the comeback. The Vols drive down and finish off a long drive by feeding the rock to little-used fullback Jakob Johnson on the goal line.
The defense continues to hold, and Tennessee carries a 10-7 lead into the final frame. Alabama mounts a drive as time is winding down, and Andy Pappanastos comes on to tie the game with seconds left. From 48 yards away, his kick drifts….wide right. Tennessee beats the No. 1 team in the nation and moves on to the College Football Playoff.
College Football Playoff Semifinal vs No. 4 Texas (12-1)
In this scenario, the Pac-12 beats up on itself, and each team has two losses at minimum. Texas sneaks in as the No. 4 seed after winning the Big 12, even with a regular season loss to USC. Tom Herman and his crew have raced through the Big 12 with a high flying offense and a solid, if-unspectacular defense. Tennessee comes in with a similar team, and it turns out to be a high scoring affair.
In a sort-of hometown duel, Texas natives Quinten Dormady and Shane Buechele combine for 600 yards, 7 touchdowns, and one interception. In a wild back-and-forth game, the lead changes hands with almost every drive. John Kelly and Ty Chandler combine for 250 total yards and 4 touchdowns. The aforementioned interception comes in the final frame, as Buechele is picked off by Nigel Warrior, who returns it to set up a Tennessee field goal. Tennessee wins a wild one, with the final score: Tennessee 51, Texas 45.
College Football Playoff Final vs No. 2 Penn State
This is undoubtedly the most important game in Tennessee football history in almost two decades. Tennessee fans are deservedly nervous, and those fears only grow when on the first play from scrimmage, Saquon Barkley carries the ball 50+ yards into the red zone. Trace McSorley rips one to the back of the end zone to DaeSean Hamilton, and Tennessee is down early. Quinten Dormady shows early signs of nerves, missing some early throws. After a Penn State field goal, Tennessee leans on the dynamic duo of John Kelly and Ty Chandler to get back in it, and the first quarter ends with a score of Penn State 10, Tennessee 7.
In the second quarter, Tennessee’s defense starts to play up to their lofty status, largely stifling the Penn State ground game. Quinten Dormady gets going with a long completion on the wheel route to his favorite young target, Eli Wolf. John Kelly finally breaks a long touchdown run, untouched. The second quarter is in the closing stages when Trace McSorley fakes the dive to Saquon Barkley and finds Miles Sanders out of the backfield, who breaks a tackle and gets Penn State in position for a field goal. Halftime score: Tennessee 14, Penn State 13.
The third quarter opens with a long Tennessee scoring drive, punctuated by a Dormady pass to Jauan Jennings… who passes to Ethan Wolf for a touchdown. The Tennessee defense forces a punt, but Marquez Callaway muffs it. Trace McSorley sets up at the 40-yard line and immediately hits Saeed Blacknall deep over the middle for a score. The Tennessee offense stalls out for much of the quarter, as John Kelly leaves the game with a minor injury. Ty Chandler struggles to carry the load, and Tennessee gives Penn State a great deal of chances. However, the Nittany Lions cannot capitalize. End of 3: Tennessee 21, Penn State 20.
In the final frame, Tennessee can’t get anything going on offense. Quinten Dormady struggles, and Penn State hits high gear. Saquon Barkley goes full “Beast Mode” with a long, Marshawn Lynch-esque run. Trace McSorley comes back on the next drive and throws deep on the first play, but is intercepted by Emmanuel Moseley. Down 27-21 with four minutes to go, the Tennessee offense sets up at the 14 yard line.
John Kelly comes back in, and immediately takes a screen pass 22 yards to the Tennessee 36 yard line. Dormady comes back with a deep incompletion to Latrell Williams, but follows that up with a 6 yard slant to Ethan Wolf. On third down and 4, Quinten Dormady’s pass is caught by Brandon Johnson on a back shoulder throw. On first down from midfield, John Kelly rumbles for 4 yards. Dormady rips one down the right sideline for Marquez Callaway, who catches and runs to the red zone.
With a minute and a half to go, John Kelly runs for six yards up the gut, but coughs up the ball. With a little luck and a lot of awareness, Drew Richmond falls on it. On the very next play, Dormady’s fade pass finds Jennings with a one-handed touchdown catch to give Tennessee a 28-27 lead.. Penn State gets the ball back with a minute to go, and Trace McSorley completes several quick passes. On the last play of the game, McSorley’s Hail Mary falls incomplete. Tennessee is your national champion.
Remember this article in eight months.
*This article is a hypothetical scenario, not a prediction