top of page

SETTING THE BAR: Playoff or Bust For Tennessee Football

By: Dallas Bowlin

Senior Staff Writer/Editor/Host

The All Vol Call In Show

The era of the four-team playoff in college football has concluded, paving the way for the introduction of the twelve-team playoff format. While the impact of this shift on the parity of the 'final four' remains uncertain, one thing is undeniable: the expansion will heighten expectations for elite programs, Tennessee among them. As the Volunteers prepare for the upcoming season, their objective is crystal clear: Playoff or bust.

Tennessee came tantalizingly close to securing a spot in the four-team playoff before a disastrous showdown with South Carolina, marked by quarterback Hendon Hooker's ACL injury and an uncharacteristic defensive lapse that allowed the Shane Beamer offense to score 63 points. Fortunately, that nightmare is now firmly in the rearview mirror.

The team boasts a formidable offensive lineup, set up to protect highly touted quarterback Nico Iamaleava. He's joined by explosive running back Dylan Sampson, speedy wide receiver Squirrel White, a physical presence in Bru McCoy at receiver, and talented sophomore tight end Ethan Davis. With this core group, the typically high-powered Heupel offense is poised to rebound after a season that ranged from mediocre to unwatchable.

On the defensive front, the Volunteers appear rejuvenated and brimming with potential. Pro Football Focus projects edge rusher James Pearce as the potential number-one overall pick in the NFL Draft while promising talent like Joshua Josephs bolsters the pass rush. Linebackers Arion Carter and Keenan Pili are poised to wreak havoc, supported by defensive backs Rickey Gibson and Boo Carter, who aim to stifle opposing receivers.

A rigorous schedule is essential for playoff contention, and Tennessee's lineup presents numerous opportunities for statement wins. Road trips to face the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, and the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, along with home games against powerhouse teams like Alabama and Florida, promise high-stakes matchups. Additionally, the Volunteers will clash with the NC State Wolfpack in a neutral site game, further solidifying their challenging path to the playoffs.

Everything seems to be falling into place for Tennessee. A roster blending seasoned veterans with promising young talent? Check. A schedule ripe with opportunities for significant victories? Check. And let's not forget the presence of one of college football's brightest coaching minds, Josh Heupel.

There may be scenarios where Tennessee falls short of the playoffs but still achieves what's deemed a 'successful season.' However, as of now, the objective remains straightforward: Playoff or bust.

Photo above | A to Z Sports


bottom of page