Tennessee kicks off its 2016 season at home against Appalachian State on Thursday night. Big things are expected from the Vols this year, but they shouldn't be overlooking their opponents this week.
Appalachian State went 11-2 last year, falling just short of a Sun Belt title. The team has won 17 of its last 19 games and returns a lot of talent for 2016. The Mountaineers should be in the thick of the conference title hunt again this year, so Tennessee would do well to not sleep on them.
For the Vols, there is so much at stake this season. They've slowly built during Butch Jones' tenure in Knoxville, and in Year 4, they have a great blend of high-end talent and experience. They just need to learn how to close the deal. Remember, they held leads in each of their four losses last year.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Tennessee started the week favored by 20.5 points.
Three big things to know
1. No pressure, Vols
Tennessee is predicted to win the SEC East according to SEC media this summer. This is a program that has been wandering in the wilderness for a long time now, and the fans are hungry for success after seeing so many stops and starts. Each of their four losses last year came by a touchdown or less, so if the standard logic applies here, this is the year we start seeing those close losses turn into wins.
2. Will App State claim another high profile victim in a season opener?
The Mountaineers have come a long way since their incredible win over Michigan in 2007. They're an established FBS program now, and Tennessee would do well not to underestimate the boys from the Sun Belt.
3. Showtime for Josh Dobbs
Dobbs has been the recipient of a lot of hype this offseason, and if Tennessee is going to live up to its expectations, it needs a big year out of him. Calmly putting away App State and racking up good numbers along the way would be a very good sign for his future performance this year.