Tennessee Football’s Ceiling and Floor Going into 2023

Tennessee Football

Tennessee FootballTennessee Football HC Josh Heupel. Photo By Caleb Jones/Tennessee Athletics.

After Tennessee found its most wins (11) since the 2001 season last year, the football team certainly has high expectations heading into the 2023 season.

And while Tennessee does lose massive team pieces such as QB Hendon Hooker, WR Jalin Hyatt, and LB Jeremy Banks, the Vols and head coach Josh Heupel still look to be reloading behind names such as QB Joe Milton III, WR Squirrel White, and LB Aaron Beasley.

That leads directly into the conversation of the 2023 season.

According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, the SP+ rankings have Tennessee’s ceiling at 11-1 and the floor at 7-5 heading into the year.

What’s the biggest variable regarding the four-game range for Tennessee? None other than the quarterback in charge of the offense.

“The Joe Milton bandwagon,” Connelly wrote. “Does it derail once again? As I wrote in Tuesday’s SP+ projections piece, Milton has seduced multiple head coaches with his rocket-launcher arm (and looked great in the Orange Bowl against Clemson), but he has also twice lost his starting job. If he properly captains Josh Heupel’s up-tempo offense — a QB-friendly attack that returns a loaded run game and receiving weapons like Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton — then the sky is the limit for a Volunteers team that boasts massive defensive experience and, intriguingly, hosts Georgia. Is Milton’s third time a charm?”

More from RTI: Where Tennessee Ranks In ESPN’s Inaugural 2023 SP+ Rankings

You can make an argument that the floor is more along the lines of 8-4, though. Not that 7-5 is egregious because this is the wild world of college football, but the argument can be made nonetheless. And here’s how.

Let’s go ahead and give Tennessee two losses with Alabama and Georgia. That leaves toss-up games at Florida, vs South Carolina, vs Texas A&M, and at Kentucky. Considering all four of those teams have question marks in some capacity, it’s hard to believe that Tennessee will drop three of those four, especially with two being at home in front of what is absolutely expected to be a sold-out season in Knoxville. At worst, it makes sense that Tennessee could drop two of the four.

Still, though, it’s hard to figure out how a team like Texas A&M will bounce back after a disastrous season in 2022.

The players and personnel are the main factors in determining a ceiling and a floor for any football team, with the schedule helping solidify some of the details.

Going into the previous 2022 season, Tennessee’s 12 regular season opponents had a combined record of 93-66 from the 2021 season. Tennessee took that schedule and turned in a 10-2 regular season.

In comparison, Tennessee’s 12 regular season opponents in 2023 combined for a record of 90-62 from the previous 2022 season. That is nearly the same combined winning percentage as the season before (0.58 in 2021 vs 0.59 in 2022).

Tennessee’s 12 regular season opponents in 2023 are as follows:

Opponent’s 2022 Record

Sat, Sep 2
vs Virginia


Sat, Sep 9
vs Austin Peay


Sat, Sep 16
@ Florida


Sat, Sep 23


Sat, Sep 30
vs South Carolina


Sat, Oct 14
vs Texas A&M


Sat, Oct 21
@ Alabama


Sat, Oct 28
@ Kentucky


Sat, Nov 4
vs UConn


Sat, Nov 11
@ Missouri


Sat, Nov 18
vs Georgia


Sat, Nov 25
vs Vanderbilt


Author: Ethan Moore