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The Volunteers have gotten tons of hype the last couple years and this season it's no different. But this may be the time they finally live up to it. Last season, close losses in which they gave up leads, were their eventual demise, losing three of their first five games by a total of 12 points. Even at Alabama, they had a chance to upset the eventual national champion, but lost 19-14. With 18 starters returning in the SEC East, the pieces are there for Tennessee to finally make the SEC title game and push for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
At this early writing the Volls are listed at odds of 15 to 1 to win the National Championship at 5 dimes sportsbook which makes them the 7th overall choice. Odds change, so be sure to check in with 5 dimes and betonline for the lastest updates.
The pieces are abundant to say the least on the offensive end. While they struggled to find consistency a year ago, the Vols still scored 35.2 points per game. With Joshua Dobbs (26 total TDs, 5 INTs) back leading the charge to go with an array of tools that include running backs Jalen Hurd (1,288 yards, 12 TDs) and Alvin Kamara (698 yards, 7 TDs) along with receivers Josh Malone, Josh Smith and Ethan Wolf, the possibilities are endless. In addition to that receiving corps, Preston Williams has made a name for himself in the spring, getting the most improved label from his coaches.
The left tackle spot is the biggest question for the Vols, but other than that, the offensive line should be just fine after helping Hurd and Kamara to a combined 1,986 rushing yards last season to go with Dobbs' 671.
The defensive side will have the most changes, most notably with new coordinator Bob Shoop taking over. He won't change too much, but he's a bit more aggressive in his play calling and that could lead to more turnovers for this defense. The issue with that is that the secondary is the youngest unit of this group. But that's not to say they don't have the players or depth. Cameron Sutton and Justin Martin will likely hold down the corners with senior Malik Foreman at safety. Middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland is only a sophomore, yet is ready to take over the defense. He's flanked by a couple seniors in Kenny Bynum and Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
The even more enticing part for Tennessee has to be the schedule. The Vols once again have a fairly straightforward route to close the season, which is looking like five straight wins. Early on, instead of Oklahoma, they'll take on Virginia Tech at a neutral site. Tennessee's toughest road games come in early October in back-to-back contests at Georgia and Texas A&M. If they can win one of those, reaching 10 wins is a real possibility for the Volunteers in the regular season. They get to host Florida and Alabama, which should help matters.
With so many returning starters, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs, it would be a major disappointment if the Vols didn't win the SEC East this year. It's there for the taking, that's for sure.
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2016 Tennessee Volunteers Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Appalachian State
Sept 10 vs. Virginia Tech (Bristol Motor Speedway)
Sept. 17 vs. Ohio
Sept. 24 vs. Florida
Oct. 1 at Georgia
Oct. 8 at Texas A&M
Oct. 15 vs. Alabama
Oct. 29 at South Carolina
Nov. 5 vs. Tennessee Tech
Nov. 12 vs. Kentucky
Nov. 19 vs. Missouri
Nov. 26 at Vanderbilt
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