⚾ How Tennessee can win the College World Series

Is it finally the Vols' time?

Hello. This is the Josh and Swain Newsletter, a quick roundup of the week’s top stories and topics involving Tennessee and the sports world.

Here’s what we have for you today:

  • Q&A with a VFL breaking down Tennessee at the College World Series

  • Why you shouldn’t worry about Tennessee’s 2024 SEC opponents

  • Another forward-thinking NIL move coming from Knoxville

  • The latest on Tennessee’s most important recruiting stretch of the year


Tennessee is back in Omaha for the College World Series.

This is UT’s sixth appearance at the College World Series. Ever.

The Vols were supposed to be in this position based on preseason expectations. But the road to Omaha included some bumps for Tennessee.

The Vols had a 5-10 record in the SEC at one point and were an afterthought in the national discussion.

Then came a late-season turnaround, a remarkable comeback against Clemson in the NCAA Regional, and a Game 2 rally and Game 3 shutout at Southern Miss to win the Super Regional.

Tennessee will play its first game against LSU on Saturday.

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What do the Vols need to do to win it all?

For that important topic, we’ve brought in a VFL who knows something about reaching the College World Series.

Craig Cobb was a starting pitcher on Tennessee’s 2005 College World Series team.

He’s No. 2 on Tennessee’s all-time wins and career innings pitched lists, behind only R.A. Dickey in both categories.

Few people have a better eye for the game of baseball than Craig Cobb.

So we asked him to join today’s newsletter to provide insight ahead of Tennessee’s game against LSU and the start of the College World Series.

Our Q&A:

Question: What stands out about Tennessee’s matchup with LSU?

Cobb: It’s a unique matchup. It’s a repeat of teams that played earlier in the year (LSU won Games 1 and 2; Tennessee won Game 3). Both know each other well. And the dynamics of the transfers: UT was in on Tommy Tanks and Paul Skenes and for Tennessee, Zane Denton, Maui Ahuna, Griffin Merritt, and Andrew Lindsey have played enormous roles in getting UT to Omaha.

And LSU’s top-end talent: Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes will go 1-2 in the MLB Draft.

Question: Why is Skenes so good as a pitcher and what does Tennessee need to do to beat him and LSU?

Cobb: He’s a large human. He sits 98-100 MPH and he can touch 102 deep into games. He has great secondary pitches and he throws strikes.

UT has to work counts and get Skenes’ pitch count up and get into their bullpen, which is the biggest weakness of LSU. Scoring early would put the Tigers on their heels.

Question: How has Tennessee changed/improved since these teams played in Baton Rouge more than two months ago?

Cobb: Tennessee is immensely better.

  1. Our lineup wasn’t settled then. We used three different lineups with different pieces in each game. Jared Dickey was catching in that series. Charlie Taylor, Kyle Booker, Dylan Dreiling were all in the lineup. Merritt only played one game.

  2. Our pitching wasn’t throwing well at the time. Chase Dollander struggled. Chase Burns struggled. Lindsay pitched well in relief in the Saturday game.

  3. Our defense was atrocious. We made six errors in three games that led to eight unearned runs. LSU only scored 18 runs in the series, and eight of them were unearned.

Our lineup has been settled. Our pitching has turned around. Our defense is vastly improved.

I don’t think our transfers (Ahuna, Denton, Merritt) were comfortable yet. The whole team wasn’t comfortable yet – and hadn’t had any road success. Now we have had road success and have done it on the biggest stage.

Question: What do you think of this College World Series field as a whole and what it will take for Tennessee to have a chance to win it?

Cobb: I think UT’s side of the bracket is tough. LSU has the No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks this year. Wake Forest’s stats are similar to the 2022 Tennessee team.

LSU’s pitching outside of Skenes is pretty average.

Stanford has a solid offense numbers-wise but their pitching isn’t good. They are experienced in Omaha as this is their third trip in a row. However, they are 1-4 in the last two years and their only win was against Arizona (fellow Pac 12 team). They’re 0-3 vs SEC teams and 0-1 vs ACC.

Good luck to the Cardinal in this bracket with these three offenses and their 5.75-team ERA. Also, Stanford’s best arm is a senior who just threw 150+ pitches vs Texas.

To have a chance (to win the World Series), Tennessee needs to win Game 1. We have the pitching to match up and make a run. Tennessee’s defense needs to avoid errors. And the bats need to stay hot.

And luck. Everyone needs luck.

Question: Is there a hitter for Tennessee that could be an X-factor in Omaha?

Cobb: That’s a tough one. Blake Burke is the easy answer. He’s the middle-of-the-order producer that hasn’t been consistent over the last six weeks. But they all need to keep it up. Merritt, Denton, Christian Moore, and Dickey have all been really good and clutch. They have to continue doing that.

Maui and Hunter Ensley need to get on base ahead of those guys.

They are just 11-51 (.216) in the postseason with six walks. So they’ve been on base 17 times and scored eight of them. The guys behind them are driving them in. But only being on base 17 times in 58 plate appearances needs to improve. That’s a .293 on-base percentage.

Final answer…all of them! They’ve been successful and resilient despite the table setters underproducing and despite Burke being in a funk since late April.

Tennessee’s side of the bracket has some really high-end talent and good teams. This should be an exciting College World Series.


The SEC announced its eight conference football games for 2024 this week.

The dates of those games are to be determined — but we now know the four home and four away opponents for each school.

As you can see from the graphic above, Tennessee’s schedule is similar to what fans are used to seeing.

Games against Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt will keep the normalcy.

A trip to Oklahoma will bring the new feel of the expanded SEC with the Sooners and Texas entering the conference.

Tennessee and Oklahoma previously played a home-and-home series in 2014-15 (OU won both — sorry for the memory of that 2015 game).

The Vols and Sooners had another series scheduled for 2020 and 2024 but the first game in Norman, Okla., was canceled due to COVID-19, and the 2024 game was called off when the SEC asked Tennessee and Georgia (2023) to cancel their games due to Oklahoma entering the league.

A few quick takeaways from Tennessee’s 2024 opponent reveal:

🔶 Alabama and Georgia will be tough as always. But that’s how it goes in the SEC. At least Alabama will be at home. Auburn drew Alabama and Georgia — both away. Welcome back, Coach Freeze!
🔶 That trip to Norman will bring all kinds of coverage of Josh Heupel returning to the school where he won a national championship as the starting quarterback in 2000. But know this: Heupel will be highly motivated to beat the school that also let him go as offensive coordinator following the 2014 season.
🔶 While Alabama and Georgia will present huge challenges, the rest of the SEC schedule should be manageable. Who else presents a major hurdle? Not to say games against Florida and Oklahoma are locks — they are not — but Tennessee shouldn’t fear those games anymore.

That brings one last point: a team’s strength of schedule is affected by how good the team is that will play those games.

Tennessee and Vanderbilt could play the same schedule. But one side would view its schedule as more challenging based on team strength.

As long as Tennessee continues to build the program and improve as the Vols have the last two years, they should never fear the schedule.

College football will also transition to a 12-team playoff in 2024. The margin of error is about to expand.


🏈 Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports ranked every SEC team’s schedule based on toughness.

🏈 Tennessee-driven Spyre Sports Group is launching an NIL collective trade association.

🏈 Free agent receiver DeAndre Hopkins has now visited the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. So what’s the latest on his decision?

Here’s the schedule for the College World Series with games starting on Friday.

⛳ Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele came out on fire at the U.S. Open with each golfer shooting a 62 in the first round.

⚽ Lionel Messi’s move to the MLS and Inter Miami was the biggest global sports news of the week. Neymar explained why he thinks it’s a game-changer.

⚽ One Knoxville SC will return home to play Charlotte Independence on Saturday.

💰💰 Want to save mone ony on future gas purchases? Download the Upside app and use promo code KH45C to get an extra 15¢/gal bonus the first time you make a purchase.


The 2024 opponent release for the SEC brought some creativity from the graphic design world.

None more creative — and confusing — than what Mississippi State produced.

Check out the release from the Bulldogs’ social media team below.

I can’t explain everything here… but I can applaud the effort.

As for the Tennessee image: you can’t unsee it.


Tennessee is in the middle of a very important recruiting stretch.

“The next 4-6 weeks will tell the tale for this 2024 class,” Volquest’s Austin Price said on Josh and Swain. “You could be sitting there six weeks from now going, ‘Man, what a run.’ Or you could be going, ‘OK, what happened?’ The next 4-6 weeks will be really pivotal for Tennessee’s recruiting class in 2024.”

Want the latest on Tennessee’s football recruiting, including the Vols’ pursuit of highly-touted in-state athlete Boo Carter?

Check out Austin Price talking to Jayson Swain and VFL Kevin Simon on this week’s show. ⬇️⬇️

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