2011 was a disastrous season for Tennessee, and Derek Dooley’s seat has become extremely warm as a result. The pivotal lowlight of last season was the 10-7 loss at Kentucky, which was the first win for the Wildcats in that series in 26 years. That fact, high attrition numbers, and perceived poor coaching have lowered the prestige of Tennessee football as of late.
If Dooley is to retain his position after this season, Tennessee’s brand will need to return to its former prominence quickly. The only way that can be done is by the Volunteers beating North Carolina State in Atlanta on opening weekend, and I think beating Florida at home in week three is necessary as well. If Tennessee starts 1-2, Dooley will certainly be looking for a new job.
2012 Forecast: I think Tennessee will be somewhat improved from 2011. However, I don’t think it will be significant enough to make a difference for coach Dooley. The Vols will again not be competing for the SEC East this year.
Offensive player to watch: #8 Tyler Bray – JR – quarterback
Defensive player to watch: #23 Prentiss Wagner – SR – cornerback
Aug. 31 – North Carolina State (Atlanta) – Win 30-21
Sept. 8 – Georgia State (Knoxville) – Win 45-14
Sept. 15 – Florida (Knoxville) – Loss 24-14
Sept. 22 – Akron (Knoxville) – Win 27-24
Sept. 29 – Georgia (Athens) – Loss 28-17
Oct. 6 – Off
Oct. 13 – Mississippi State (Starkville) – Win 21-14
Oct. 20 – Alabama (Knoxville) – Loss 17-16
Oct. 27 – South Carolina (Columbia) – Loss 27-10
Nov. 3 – Troy (Knoxville) – Win 37-17
Nov. 10 – Missouri (Knoxville) – Loss 27-21
Nov. 17 – Vanderbilt (Nashville) – Loss 24-13
Nov. 24 – Kentucky (Knoxville) – Win 28-14
Projected record: 6-6 (2-6)
By a narrow margin, I think Tennessee will be eligible to compete in a postseason bowl game. But in reality, it will not be a major improvement from 2011, and I think Tennessee fans and administrators will not choose to afford another year like the last two. So, it will be a fait accompli for Dooley and company.
*Home games are in BOLD