By: The All Vol Call in Show Staff
Take a deep breath. In through the nose -- and out through the mouth. Do you smell that? Football is in the air, and we're about to hear those five words that get all of our hearts beating faster: "it's football time in Tennessee."
The #Vols open the season against the Virginia Cavaliers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN, with kickoff slated for noon eastern time.
Virginia is coming off of an abysmal season, marred by tragedy, in which it tied for last in the ACC Coastal with Virginia Tech. The #Cavs had two games canceled last season, and were only able to play 10 games, amassing a 3-7 record and losing their last three games in succession.
Tennessee is coming off of its best season in nearly two decades, finishing the season with an 11-2 record and an Orange Bowl victory over the Clemson Tigers.
Yet again, the expectations on Rocky Top are in the ionosphere. The #Vols are looking to prove that 2022 was more than just "catching lightning in a bottle" and they're here to stay.
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This is likely the most excited I have personally been about Tennessee football in a very long time. Following last year's success, it certainly feels like things are headed upward, and quickly. Josh Heupel has proven his ability to create an incredible offense, seemingly out of thin air. However, the defense remains the looming question; particularly the secondary. Can the #Vols improve enough on the defensive side of the ball to compliment their potent offense? To that question, I have two words: depth and experience.
I expect Tennessee's defense to be much improved this coming season. However, with the lack of talent on the Virginia roster, I don't expect the #Vols to have to show much defensively to get the win; although a few takeaways wouldn't hurt. I believe that Tennessee is the much more talented team, and can more/less win big on talent alone. This one goes heavily to Tennessee to kick off 2023.
Prediction: Tennessee - 49 | Virginia - 10
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First and foremost, I'd like to remember the three Cavaliers who died in a tragic accident last year: Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler, and D'Sean Perry; May they rest in peace.
Now, onto the game. Last season, Virginia's pass defense was quite good, allowing only 204 yards per game. They might be able to keep this one close for a half, but I don't see the Cavaliers scoring enough to keep up with Tennessee’s offense.
Prediction: Tennessee - 38 | Virginia - 13
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Let me start by commending Tony Elliott and Virginia for taking on this challenge to start their season. This program and the greater Charlottesville community suffered an unspeakable tragedy to end their season last year, and are still picking up the pieces from it all. It would’ve made sense to back out of the game and maybe take a bye week or schedule an easier opponent. Instead, they’re choosing to play a program looking to reestablish themselves as a top dog in college football in what will be an extra home game for their counterparts.
Joe Milton III is looking to prove himself and his worth as Tennessee’s starting quarterback after losing his job two seasons ago. Jaylen McCollough and the Volunteer defense want to improve on a good, but not great showing last year. Virginia will be light years ahead of where they were last year, but I don’t see them hanging with the Big Orange during a Week one game in Nashville.
Prediction: Tennessee - 45 | Virginia - 14
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I expect Tennessee to come out swinging in this one. Joe Milton III has so much to prove, and I believe he starts week one. I expect Tennessee to run the ball a lot, but allow Milton to show off a little bit as well. Virginia is one of the worst power 5 teams in the country heading into this season, and Tennessee is a top 15 ranked team. We saw what happened when the best of the ACC met Tennessee last season and now, we get to witness the worst of the ACC against Tennessee. Tennessee big in this one, folks.
Side bet, I expect 2 runs of 50 plus yards and a Dee Williams TD return.
Prediction: Tennessee - 52 | Virginia - 13
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Hopes are high on Rocky Top as the Vols kick off the 2023 season with a consensus top-15 program. Virginia is a young, fledgling ACC team who is trying to achieve respectability under second-year coach Tony Elliott. He has named Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett as the starting QB, who is not likely to receive a warm welcome to the FBS ranks.
Tennessee has an opportunity to make a good first impression with an ABC audience and further solidify their improved national perception. If UT handles business, they may get some late reps in for young players, including QB Nico Iamaleava.
Prediction: Tennessee - 45 | Virginia - 17
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It is finally football time in Tennessee. It feels like an eternity since I could say that, but the 2023 college football season has finally arrived. On Saturday we get to see the Big Orange take the field in Nashville to play against the Cavaliers from Virginia. This is one of the most anticipated seasons on Rocky Top in a while. With one of the most experienced teams in the SEC returning for Heupel, expectations are high.
Looking at this game on Saturday, I expect the Volunteers to take care of business. The offense has a lot of continuity to it. There are explosive play makers at the skill positions with a quarterback that is poised to break out under the tutelage of Josh Heupel. Question marks remain on the offensive line, but I expect them to be able to hold up in this game. Defensively, this team is ready to take a step forward. The talent is there and finally the depth is there.
Virginia struggled offensively last season, and now they come into this year losing their starting quarterback and offensive coordinator. This should be a good warm up for the defense and an opportunity to see some of the highly touted young guys. Josh Heupel in opening games as a head coach is 5-0, with his offenses averaging 52.8 points per game, and his defenses only surrendering 10.8. I think the Vols cover and win big in the mid-state. Prediction: Tennessee - 48 | Virginia - 16
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Coach Heupel is entering year three and there are huge expectations for this season. The Cavaliers are led by head coach Tony Elliott, and he's looking to flip the script for Virginia, who is coming off a horrible 3-7 season. This is an important game for both teams to get their seasons started off right for different reasons. Tennessee wants to build off the success of last season as they look to return to being among the nation's elite and Virginia wants to put a horrible event (school shooting) behind them, that left their team scrambling to stay focused on the game of football.
The all-time series is led by the Tennessee Vols three victories to Virginia’s one. While geographically close, they haven’t played each other since the 1990 season when they faced off in the 91’ Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, which Tennessee won 23-22. The history of this series won’t come into play this Saturday but neither team will want to be on the losing end. Both teams will be starting new QBs and will be looking to sure up some of their weak spots and the team that can do that the most efficiently has the best chance to win.
On paper, Tennessee has a way more talented team but they do have some question marks, with the offensive line and the secondary being concerns. The Vols need to avoid a sloppy start that could allow the Cavaliers to hang around and make this a game. Virginia is looking to start over and put the past behind them, which is no small task. They will also need to avoid any big mistakes or turnovers that will allow the Vols to pounce like a pack of wolves. At the end of the day, I can see this being a close game early until the jitters get out of the way. When they do, Tennessee should flex their muscle and showcase their talent in a big way. I have the Vols winning big.
Prediction: Tennessee - 43 | Virginia - 16
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After eight long months, we are back. College football goes full bore on Saturday, and the Vols look to be in the thick of everything. Joe Milton picked up where Hendon Hooker left off last year by decimating Vanderbilt before picking apart Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
What's the pulse for Tennessee this season? Well, as my friend Kathleen so eloquently said to a car full of UGA and South Carolina fans: "15-0 BABY!!! WE'RE COMING FOR ALL YOUR HEADS!!!!" Will she be proved right? Hard to say, but she won't be proved wrong on Saturday. Tennessee rolls the Cavs and starts the season off with a comfortable win.
Prediction: Tennessee - 45 | Virginia - 17