Quick: Name an SEC team that has a chance to dethrone Alabama next season.

Let us guess. You named LSU. Or Ole Miss. Or Florida. Or Georgia. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, Auburn, which last year went 2-6 in the SEC.

You didn’t name Tennessee, did you? Well, perhaps you should have.

Yes, the Volunteers not only enter the season as SEC-East favorites, but they also have a legitimate chance to upend the mighty Tide.

Why? It’s simple.

“They have an offense,” Athlon Sports college football guru Braden Gall said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Nobody else in the SEC-East has an offense. They’re loaded on defense. They hired one of the best defensive coordinators in college football in Bob Shoop. They bring back more starters that anybody in the SEC. They get Alabama and Florida at home. The schedule sets up for them finally. They’ve gone from five to seven to nine wins under Butch Jones. Everything’s in place. The offensive line, every position on that team is set and ready to go. There’s literally no excuse for Tennessee to lose the SEC-East. That game at Georgia will be huge, but that team is absolutely stacked.”

The Volunteers started 3-4 last season but won their final six games, including a 45-6 drubbing of then-No. 13 Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. It was Tennessee’s largest margin of victory in a bowl game in school history.

Tennessee’s four losses came against Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, and, yes, Alabama – by an average of 4.3 points.

“If you really watched last year’s schedule, they lost a lot of games by two or three points to teams that won conferences,” Gall said. “They were very close last year for a four-loss team. They’ll get back to Atlanta this year, and they could be the team that dethrones Alabama.”

Tennessee, ranked seventh in Athlon’s preseason poll, averaged 35.2 points per game last season and rushed for 2,908 yards – the second most in school history behind the 1951 national champions, who rushed for 3,068. The Vols return 17 starters, including senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who is 14-5 as a starter, and running back Jalen Hurd, who was named Outback Bowl MVP.

Athlon Sports ranked three other SEC teams in its preseason top 10: No. 1 Alabama, No. 9 LSU and No. 10 Ole Miss.

Florida State, Ohio State, Clemson and Michigan are ranked second through fifth, respectively.


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