August 10, 2022

How Tennessee can silence all of the naysayers

Tennessee Football

Tennessee defensive tackle Greg Emerson leads team off the field after a 24-20 victory over Missouri Saturday November 23, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

For a team that currently has the longest winning streak in the SEC and their highest AP ranking since 2016, the Volunteers aren’t getting any respect.

It’s just year three on the job for Jeremy Pruitt, but he has lead Tennessee out of the SEC cellar. The sleeping giant program has emerged back into one of the elites in the East division and everyone is starting to take notice. However, there are still many critics out there that think the Volunteers are pretenders instead of contenders.

After all, Tennessee has only beat two teams with a winning record during its’ eight-game winning steak. Now the Volunteers are approaching the meat grinder of their conference schedule. A road date with No. 3 Georgia looms this Saturday and it’s a perfect opportunity for Tennessee to show the College football world it’s legit.

Senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has played with extreme confidence and has looked the par. The New Jersey native has thrown for 449 yards and scored five total touchdowns through two games this fall. Running backs Ty Chandler and Eric Gray have performed great in the Volunteers’ backfield thus far. The duo combined for 321 yards on the ground and four total touchdowns against South Carolina and Missouri.

On defense the Volunteers have caused three turnovers and held the Tigers scoreless in the first and fourth quarter. Linebackers Deandre Johnson and Henry To’o To’o have played impressive and both continue to set the tone for the front seven. The biggest concern has been senior kicker Brent Cimaglia. He finished second in the SEC last year with 23 field goals, but made only one of his three attempts this fall.

Regardless of the matter, Tennessee is 2-0 in SEC play for the first time under Pruitt. Still, the Volunteers will need to play their best game of the season against the Bulldogs if they hope to pull off the upset. Pruitt is still searching for that first signature win of his tenure. Saturday’s matchup will be a great measuring stick for Pruitt’s team. Although Tennessee hasn’t beat Georgia since a Hail Mary miracle in 2016.

The 46-year old coach needs to show he has closed the gap talent wise and it’s now or never for the Volunteers to make a statement. So far this season it has been the year of the underdog. The Volunteers must prove that their winning streak is no fluke and that they belong. A win over the second-best team in the SEC will speak volumes in terms of recruiting and national relevancy. People need to be convinced, plus a victory will prove Pruitt is worth every penny of his new contract extension.