FOX Sports Top 25: No. 24 Tennessee
Welcome to the FOX Sports preseason Top 25, as we continue to break down college football's standout squads for 2020. We polled our roster of FOX College Football talent to get the most comprehensive results and provide a consensus list as of Aug. 3. Join us as we count down from 25 to 1, revealing a new team each day. Utah started off the list at No. 25, just behind …
No. 24 Tennessee
Tennessee opened 2019 with a stunning loss to Georgia State, but the Vols managed to salvage the season, capped with a 23-22 Gator Bowl win against Indiana to finish 8-5 in Jeremy Pruitt’s second year at the helm.
Last season marked the first time the Vols were bowl eligible since 2016. Still, Tennessee has a long way to go to reach the title-winning heights it did in the late ‘90s.
Joel Klatt’s thoughts: "I think they could be a lot better than 24. ... The reason I like Tennessee is the way that they finished the year last year. I felt like they were building momentum. They started the year so poorly. ... It's the third year for Pruitt. They went 5-7, now 8-5, I think that they could take the next jump. It wouldn't shock me if they were a nine or 10-win team this year, that's how much I think of Tennessee."
Key players incoming/returning: Senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano leads the quarterback room, but inconsistency plagued him in 2019. Perhaps the biggest boost for the Vols comes from the guys in the trenches, with Trey Smith and Georgia transfer Cade Mays named on the 2020 Outland Trophy watchlist.
Sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o, who finished second on the team with 72 tackles, headlines a number of defensive watchlists. An experienced secondary returns, with starting corners Alontae Taylor and Bryce Thompson in the fold alongside Jaylen McCullough at safety.
Key players lost: On offense, the Vols are down three of their top two wideouts in Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway. Those two accounted for over 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns of production.
The biggest hole to plug for the Vols comes on defense, though, with sack-artist Darrell Taylor drafted in the second round by the Seahawks. Leading tackler Daniel Bituli’s presence in the heart of the defense at linebacker will need to be filled, too.
Biggest win of 2019: Tennessee 24, Missouri 20
The Gator Bowl win was great for Pruitt’s squad, but they had to be bowl eligible to get there. Holding off Mizzou’s rally at Faurot Field on November 23 sealed the deal, giving the Vols their sixth win of the season after starting the campaign 1-4.
FOX Bet odds (as of 8/4):
To win SEC: +4000
To win National Championship: +17500