This is if the Tennessee football Volunteers actually play non-Southeastern Conference teams.
As of this moment, non-conference games are in question given the decision by the Big Ten and likely decisions by the ACC and Pac-12. However, if Tennessee football does play its non-conference slate, they could have a brutal road relative to other SEC teams.
Eric Sorenson of Athlon Sports ranked the Vols’ non-conference slate the second toughest among teams in the nation’s top league. UT came in just behind the South Carolina Gamecocks, who have to face the Clemson Tigers annually.
The highlight of Tennessee football’s schedule is obviously that trip to the Oklahoma Sooners. For Sorenson, that appears to be the only major non-SEC game for Rocky Top, but it’s enough to have them at No. 2. Here’s what Sorenson said about the Vols.
The last time the Volunteers had double-digit wins was 2007. The last time they ended the season in the top 10 was 2001. Jeremy Pruitt is doing a good job of leading the program back and is gaining some momentum, but there is still a ways to go. The game two showdown with OU will be a great barometer to how far the boys have come, but UT will be hard-pressed to pull off an upset. The other three non-conference games should be solid Ws, but don’t sleep on the Paladins, who were an FCS playoff team a year ago and return most of their skill players from a run-heavy, in-your-face offense.
It is true that UT’s non-conference schedule is much tougher than last year, when the Vols had four home games and no opponents even affiliated with Power Five conferences. Given the fact that one of their opponents this year is a College Football Playoff contender on the road and their FCS opponent, the Furman Paladins, are elite at that level, they already have a tough road.
On top of that, however, the Charlotte 49ers are a program on the rise. They are coming off a 7-6 year and entering Will Healy’s second season with expectations of making a major jump in Conference USA play.
Finally, there are the Troy Trojans. Sure, they went 5-7 last year, but they were adjusting to new head coach Chip Lindsey’s offense. They are likely to take off under former Auburn Tigers offensive coordinator this year.
Simply put, Tennessee football could potentially play two elite teams by Group of Five standards, a College Football Playoff team at the Power Five level and an FCS Playoff team at the lower level. That’s a brutal road. Jeremy Pruitt’s team would benefit the most from the cancelation of non-conference play. If it doesn’t happen, the Vols could be in trouble.