One of the reasons Josh Heupel has the potential for a surprise first year as head coach of the Tennessee football program is the hospitable schedule. The Vols play eight games at home, and none of their non-conference foes are expected to be in the top 25 this year. They also play in an SEC East that has numerous mediocre teams.
Obviously, playing in the SEC in general comes with a few tough games, so it’s not like this slate is a cakewalk. The Vols would have a much easier path to a winning record Heupel’s first year on the job in any other conference. Even the East has its fare share of tough foes.
However, given the schedule Tennessee football often plays, this could be much tougher. Just how tough is each opponent, though, and what is the Vols’ path to six wins or more? Let’s break that down here. This is our ranking of all 12 games on Rocky Top’s schedule by how difficult they will be. Location, when the game is set and the quality of the opponent will all come into play.
12. Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
Saturday, Sept. 18; Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
Playing an FCS school isn’t always the easiest opponent on the slate, but in this case, there’s no exception to the rule. The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles should be a certain win for Rocky Top, even if Josh Heupel’s first team fails to win any game the rest of the year.
TTU is entering its fourth year under head coach Dewayne Alexander. Last year, it went 2-5, a massive drop-off from 6-6 in 2019. Still, when you consider the fact that they went 1-10 Alexander’s first year and that this is all at the FCS level, it’s pretty clear that this is a program the Vols should dismantle no matter what they are going through.
If Tennessee football struggles at all in this game, it’ll be time to raise some immediate red flags when it comes to Heupel. They would actually have to work at it to struggle in this game, so yes, it’s by far the easiest one on their slate.