The 2018 USA TODAY preseason Top 25 highlights the brutal Tennessee football schedule. The Volunteers play four ranked teams, including three in the Top 10.
The SEC East is supposed to be the weaker division again this year. But that doesn’t apply to Tennessee football given their schedule. The Vols managed to draw the two toughest teams from the SEC West on their schedule.
That’s at least based on the 2018 preseason Amway Coaches Poll rankings. Released on Thursday, the poll has the Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 1, the Georgia Bulldogs at No. 4 and the Auburn Tigers at No. 10. Those are the three highest ranked teams in the conference. And just the Vols’ luck, they have to face all of them, including Georgia and Auburn on the road.
Tennessee football’s brutal schedule involves more than just those three games, though. They have to open the season against the West Virginia Mountaineers, who came in at No. 20. On top of that, the top two vote-getters outside of the Top 25, the Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks, also face the Vols. The Kentucky Wildcats also received votes.
So the Vols face seven teams that the poll deems worthy of Top 25 consideration on the Vols’ schedule. On top of that, the Missouri Tigers should be on there considering the return of Drew Lock and last year’s hot finish.
When you factor that in, UT has eight very difficult opponents. This is a brutal way to begin a new era under Jeremy Pruitt, especially when you consider the match-ups with teams like West Virginia, who has that high-powered passing attack.
However, there is some good news on Rocky Top. For starters, Florida is vastly overrated. They have absolutely no business getting any more consideration than the Vols right now. This team was just as bad last year and is learning a new system this year. Oh, and didn’t they need a Hail Mary to beat Tennessee football in Gainesville?
Anyway, on top of Florida, Georgia has a lot of inexperience. South Carolina, meanwhile, is always going to be erratic with Will Muschamp at the helm. Finally, Kentucky and Mizzou both play in Knoxville this year.
So the schedule is manageable with proper coaching as long as there’s some talent. And looking at it, Vols fans should just be happy they don’t have the LSU Tigers’ schedule. LSU is ranked No. 24 with Ed Orgeron on the hot seat. But they face all the ranked SEC teams plus Florida. And they open the season against the Miami Hurricanes, who are in the Top 10.
They and Auburn have the toughest schedules overall by drawing Georgia from the East and still having to navigate the West, which also had the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Top 25. Auburn, meanwhile, opens against the Washington Huskies.
But outside of those two teams, the Vols may have the third toughest schedule in the SEC. And that’s just based on what the polls say. Simply put, Tennessee football could be in for a rough ride. Or it could be a lot of fun. The beauty of preseason is we just don’t know.