🏈 Tennessee Football has BIG expectations

Why the Vols aren't afraid of the talk

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:

  • Tennessee’s football team is not shying away from big expectations

  • The latest on Tennessee’s top target in the basketball transfer portal

  • Odds for Tennessee’s biggest football games this fall

  • The roles have flipped for Tennessee and Vanderbilt baseball

TENNESSEE’S BIG EXPECTATIONS

Tennessee players are unafraid of the talk

Tennessee’s football team isn’t hiding from expectations ahead of the 2024 season.

The team’s goal this fall?

“Go win a national title,” wide receiver Bru McCoy said.

Fellow receiver Chas Nimrod and defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott mentioned the same goal when they joined us on Josh and Swain on Thursday.

“I think that people can see that we actually have an opportunity,” Nimrod said. “We have the talent in our room to go and be national championships — do whatever we want to do.”

None of the players were calling their shot when they mentioned the national championship.

They were talking about the team’s work ethic and belief in the program.

But they’re not afraid of the hype.

That’s been the case with Tennessee’s coaching staff, too.

Defensive coordinator Tim Banks said during spring practice that Tennessee should have the best defensive line in the country.

Then there’s the anticipation of Nico Iamaleava.

He has plenty to prove — he’s started one game in his career — but the excitement around Iamaleava is real.

“Nico’s a freak,” wide receiver Chris Brazzell II said on Thursday.

Tennessee is still a longshot (around 30/1) to win the national title.

But the Vols’ playoff hopes are real with a 12-team format.

Different sites have varying opinions on where Tennessee stands among SEC teams, but most of them rank UT as the 6th to 8th best team in the conference.

Most publications have the Vols as a top-15 team during the offseason.

That makes the hope of reaching the playoff real.

Can Tennessee actually win the national championship?

UT has a lot to prove for that to become real.

But there’s no doubt they’re ready to talk about it.

Check out our entire conversation with Bru McCoy, who talked about his experience playing for Tennessee and why he believes UT’s wide receiver room is much improved.

PORTAL ‘UPDATE’ ON TOP VOLS TARGET

Tennessee basketball has focused on one player in the transfer portal over the last few weeks: Chaz Lanier.

We’ve mentioned the guard from North Florida multiple weeks in this newsletter. 

He looks like the final piece to complete Tennessee’s roster makeover through the portal. 

When Lanier put his name in the transfer portal in April, the Vols looked like a perfect fit. 

Tennessee needs scoring and outside shooting. 

Lanier excelled in both categories last season, scoring nearly 20 points a game on 44-percent shooting from three.

He’s also from Ensworth School in Nashville. 

Perfect fit!

So what’s the problem?

One, he’s still going through the NBA Draft process, which has dragged this out longer than anyone at UT would have liked.

Two, the waiting game has allowed other schools to work their way into the mix.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports updated the status of the top uncommitted players in the transfer portal. 

When he got to Lanier, Norlander said:

“It’s looking like that might be Kentucky. And if it’s not Kentucky, it’s Tennessee. And if it’s not Tennessee, it might be BYU.”

Lanier choosing BYU would be a shocker.  

But Kentucky?

That’s a school with money to spend on name, image and likeness with a fanbase desperate to return to a championship level. 

Expect the Wildcats to be aggressive in trying to lure a scoring threat like Lanier… especially if it means keeping him away from one of Kentucky’s top competitors in the SEC.

This could all work out fine for Tennessee. 

Lanier could return to his home state to finish his college career just as almost everyone expected when he enter the portal. 

His interest in the Vols is sincere. 

But Lanier could also take his time with a decision.

And Kentucky has given him something to think about.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 Was Tennessee snubbed being left out of Jesse Simonton’s ranking of top 10 wide receiver units?

🏈 Here are some lingering questions for each top 25 team, including Tennessee, following spring practice.

🏈 Brian Kelly saying LSU is ‘not in the market of buying players’ drew a ton of attention this week.

🏀 What is the going rate for a big-time college basketball transfer? These numbers might wow you, via The Athletic.

🏀 Lady Vols legend Candace Parker was named president of Adidas women’s basketball.

🏀 Could Arkansas limit its roster to 8-9 scholarship players this year?

🏌️‍♂️ Something is wrong in the world of golf, our friend Jay Busbee writes.

❤️ This thread with a story involving the great Ernie Johnson is the best thing I read this week. Highly recommended.

LOOKING AHEAD TO TENNESSEE’S KEY GAMES

Oddsmakers are weighing in on the upcoming CFB season

The sportsbook DraftKings released point spreads for a bunch of college football games this fall.

The list of available games included five featuring Tennessee.

Here are the lines as of this writing:

◼️ Sept. 7 Tennessee -5.5 vs NC State (Charlotte)
◼️ Sept. 21 Tennessee +4 at Oklahoma
◼️ Oct. 12 Tennessee -11 vs Florida
◼️ Oct. 19 Tennessee +2 vs Alabama
◼️ Nov. 16 Tennessee +17.5 at Georgia

Initial takeaways:

1️⃣ That’s a lot of points in the Georgia game.

Yes, the Bulldogs have controlled the series for a while.

And it’s probably more of a compliment to Georgia than a knock on Tennessee.

But that would be a big disappointment if Tennessee can’t stay within 17 points in Athens.

We’re also a long way away from the game… so don’t make too much of it right now.

2️⃣ The two power conference games in September will be huge.

This is NOT breaking news — most people recognize the importance of the NC State and Oklahoma games.

Don’t check off either game as an automatic win, especially the game AT Oklahoma.

Recent trips to Gainesville and the two Columbias should remind us to take any Tennessee road game seriously.

How Tennessee performs against NC State and Oklahoma in September will tell us how real the playoff talk is for UT.

3️⃣ Tennessee better beat Florida

The game is in mid-October this year, so we’ll know more about Tennessee than we typically do when the Vols play Florida.

The oddsmakers have Tennessee favored by double digits against the Gators.

That might be a tad high, but the Vols will be at home playing for bigger goals than Florida.

Cover or don’t cover the spread.

Just don’t lose to Florida… because it will be tough to find an excuse for this one.

We talked about Tennessee’s comparison to other SEC teams as well as the hype around Nico Iamaleava with Brad Crawford of 247Sports. Check out the conversation below or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

NO. 1 TENNESSEE HITS THE ROAD

The No. 1 ranked Tennessee baseball team will play a three-game series against Vanderbilt in Nashville this weekend.

The two teams are in unusual spots.

The Vols are the No. 1 ranked team in the country while Vanderbilt is unranked.

Tennessee being No. 1 isn’t that strange; the Vols spent a lot of time in that spot two years ago.

But Vandy has been a baseball powerhouse for quite a while under coach Tim Corbin.

The Commodores dropped out of the polls after last weekend and need a series win in a big way.

Meanwhile, Tennessee will go for an eighth straight series win in SEC play.

Tennessee has two conferences series remaining: Vandy this weekend and South Carolina at home next weekend.

Can Tennessee get the No. 1 overall seed?

That might be tough.

While the Vols rank No. 1 in the polls, other metrics could keep them out of the top spot for NCAA seeding.

Some fans would be OK with that.

After all, the No. 1 overall seed hasn’t won the national title since Miami in 1999.

But Tennessee has positioned itself well to make another run at the College World Series.

➡️ (And if you’re not tired of seeing odds in this write-up, DraftKings gives Tennessee the third-best odds to win the national title, behind Texas A&M and Arkansas.)

The Vols are basically a lock to host a regional and will have a great chance at hosting a super regional.

Tennessee is still looking for more success in Omaha.

But the Vols have established themselves as a legit national power in college baseball.

They’ll try to remind everyone of that this weekend in Nashville.

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