It’s Impossible to Bet on Tennessee Right Now, Even if There’s Value

Sep 25, 2018 12:33 PM EDT
  • Tennessee's football team is coming off a 47-21 loss to Florida, the Vols' second blowout loss this season.
  • It was a sloppy loss, indicating that you can't bet on the Vols with confidence, even if there's "value" on them.

Tennessee’s football team received a reality check when it lost 47-21 to Florida on Saturday night.

That’s not just because it was a blowout loss at home to one of Tennessee’s rivals, or because the Vols now have a 2-2 record with a brutal stretch of games coming up.

Tennessee’s loss to Florida was a reminder of the state of the program and how far the Vols have to go to compete with quality programs.

Tennessee has played against two Power 5 teams this season: Florida and West Virginia. Both teams beat it by 26 points.

How far has Tennessee football fallen? Consider these facts:

  • Tennessee has lost 10 straight SEC games and has an active losing streak against all other 13 teams in the conference.
  • Since the start of the 2010 season, Tennessee has a winning record against only one SEC team: Kentucky.
  • The Cleveland Browns’ winless streak in the NFL, which ended with a victory over the New York Jets on Thursday, lasted 635 days; Tennessee’s winless streak in the SEC is at 675 days and counting.

Tennessee has failed to cover the spread in all three of its games against FBS opponents this season, and it’s difficult to point to a reason to bet on the Vols anytime soon.

That’s even with Georgia being favored by 31.5 points at home over Tennessee this week, the largest number in series history.

The Vols are expected to be underdogs in every game through October and likely won’t be favored to win an SEC game this season.

How has Tennessee gotten to this point?

It starts with the personnel. Tennessee doesn’t have a roster good enough to compete with quality teams.

That was made clear when co-defensive coordinator Chris Rumph spoke at the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday.

“It ain’t about the X’s and O’s; it’s about the Jimmies and Joes,” Rumph said to the group. “We’ve got to get some more players in here, more depth. Our first units are decent, pretty good. When we go to our second team … any injury right now is going to really hurt because we don’t have any depth.”

That’s pretty straightforward. The Vols don’t have enough good players.

But that’s just the start of it.

First-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt is also trying to change the mindset within the program, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It might not happen in a season or two.

When Pruitt decided to go for a touchdown rather than kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter of the season opener against West Virginia, Tennessee’s head coach said it was about changing the culture within the program.

Florida dominated Tennessee along the line of scrimmage on Saturday. The Vols just aren’t good enough up front, which automatically eliminates them from contention in the SEC.

So what does Tennessee do in the meantime? Pruitt said following the loss to Florida that it starts with fixing what he has in the locker room.

The Vols also need to do what Pruitt has said is most important: win the turnover battle.

Tennessee turned the ball over six times against Florida while taking the ball away from the Gators only once. The Vols need to flip that outcome in future games. And it wasn’t just bad luck — it was sloppy play.

“For us to have success, we need to be on the other side (of the turnover battle),” Pruitt said. “We need to be in the plus-4.”

Plus-4 in the turnover margin means a difference of nine turnovers from what happened against Florida. That again stresses the enormity of the turnaround Tennessee is facing.

There’s no hiding from what the Vols are about to go up against. Tennessee’s next three opponents — Georgia, Auburn and Alabama — are all rank inside the top six of Collin Wilson’s Action Network betting power ratings.

Tennessee’s goal at the beginning of the season was to reach a bowl game. That’s still on the table with only two losses, but the results so far and the remaining schedule make it seem unlikely.

Tennessee might need to adjust its goals soon.

“Maybe we can at least cover this week,” a Tennessee fan could say.

Maybe, but I’m not sure I’d bet on it.

Credit:

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alexis Johnson

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