Tennessee Football: Realistic expectations for Vols in 2023

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel /

Tennessee football had a banner year in the 2022 season and here’s a look at what’s a realistic expectation for the Vols in 2023. 

Few teams did more to exceed expectations during the 2022 season than the Tennessee football team, which won 11 games, beat Alabama, and won the Orange Bowl.

Tennessee football won four more games in 2022 and if Hendon Hooker hadn’t gotten hurt, who knows what could have happened. He might have won the Heisman Trophy and the Vols may have made the College Football Playoff.

The Vols are dealing with a number of departures for the NFL. Hooker won’t be back and neither will a couple of his top targets in the passing game which includes Jalin Hyatt.

However, Joe Milton showed plenty of promise in the Orange Bowl win over Clemson. With Milton, the issue has never been arm talent. He’s always had one of the strongest arms in college football. Accuracy and making good decisions have been his problem, but last season, he looked like he took a big step forward in his development and he’s the best bet to be starting the opener.

Milton threw for 971 yards last season, 10 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and completed 64.9 percent of his passes. The good news for Tennessee football is that if Milton struggles or gets hurt, five-star Nico Iamaleava should be ready to play this season too.

In fact, you wonder if the five-star freshman would be able to push Milton in the fall, but either way, the Vols should be solid at quarterback.

The defense is experienced and features basically all seniors in the projected starting lineup along with a couple of additions from the transfer portal. So what’s a realistic expectation for Tennessee football in 2023? Here’s our take.

Realistic expectations for Tennessee football in 2023

The schedule is pretty daunting once again for the Vols as they will travel to Alabama this season in addition to hosting the Georgia Bulldogs.

Tennessee football also has road trips to Florida in September and to Kentucky and Missouri later on in the season, as well as a home game against Texas A&M.

So the non-division games aren’t easy. They weren’t last season and the Vols found a way to go 10-2 in the regular season. To me, that’s a realistic goal for Tennessee football in 2023.

It seems like it will be difficult for the Vols to beat Alabama two years in a row. Hosting Georgia should make for a challenging game for the Dawgs and it might be the toughest game on the schedule for UGA.

It is winnable, but I’ll believe Georgia loses when I see it. Once the Bulldogs settle things at quarterback, I don’t see a ton of dropoff from last season.

Outside of those games, Tennessee would need to run the table to make a 10-2 record again. South Carolina is another challenging game at home for the Vols, who also host Virginia in a non-conference game.

Josh Heupel is one of the best head coaches in college football in my opinion and my prediction is that Tennessee football is back in a New Year’s Six bowl game in 2023 with a record of 10-2 or potentially even 9-3.

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Regardless, I think Tennessee is going to be one of the top 10-15 teams in the country once again next season and if the QB doesn’t drop off much, the Vols could be a playoff contender too.