9. BYU Cougars
Saturday, Sept. 7; Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
On one hand, Tennessee football is incredibly lucky this year to have their major non-conference game be against the BYU Cougars. However, it also puts a ton of pressure on them to be able to win all of their games outside of the SEC.
Assuming they do blow out the Georgia State Panthers, this game will go a long way toward determining what type of season the Vols have. It’s not that they can celebrate too much if they win this game. But if they lose, it signifies a disastrous season.
Head coach Kalani Sitake’s team returns a lot of talent from a 7-6 record a year ago, and they figure to be much better. As a result, they are still a dangerous team, so Pruitt needs to make sure he has his guys ready to play.
BYU is still easy enough to not be ahead of any SEC school. That wasn’t the case for the West Virginia Mountaineers last year or even the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or Virginia Tech Hokies in 2017 and 2016. But that does not mean that they are a sure victory.
This would have been below UAB if the Vols played the Cougars at noon since the time change from the Mountain West would hurt BYU. But with the game set for 7 p.m. already, it’s enough to keep this as the toughest non-conference game. That’s about all we can say for it, though, and putting it at No. 9 shows how easy the non-conference slate is this year for Rocky Top.