The Tennessee Vols learned on Monday when they’ll be playing each of the opponents on their 2020 schedule.
Surprisingly, the revised schedule worked out quite nicely for the Vols (well, as nicely as a tough schedule can work out).
Here’s how I see the schedule playing out.
September 26 — Tennessee @ South Carolina
This is a nice way to start the season. With a conference-only schedule, no one is going to have the benefit of a “tune-up” game. The matchup against South Carolina certainly doesn’t qualify as a tune-up game, but it’s still a game the Vols will be favored to win. UT wins (1-0)
October 3 — Missouri @ Tennessee
Another matchup that works in Tennessee’s favor. The Vols have more talent than Missouri. And this game will be in Knoxville. These first two games should allow UT to have some momentum going int a big road game against Georgia. UT Wins (2-0)
October 10 — Tennesse @ Georgia
Tennessee is getting close to where they can compete with Georgia, but they’re not quite there yet. The Bulldogs have more talent. And Kirby Smart knows what he’s doing. The Vols aren’t far off from being able to beat Georgia again, but I don’t think it happens in 2020. UT Loses (2-1)
October 17 — Kentucky @ Tennessee
This isn’t the ideal rebound game — Kentucky is no pushover — but it’s better than playing Auburn. Jeremy Pruitt has owned the Wildcats in his first two years on Rocky Top. There’s no reason to think that won’t also be the case in 2020. UT Wins (3-1)
October 24 — Alabama @ Tennessee
I don’t think Tennessee is going to win this game. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be completely shocked if it happened, either. This is going to be a weird year. It’s inevitable that some wild upsets will happen. Why not the Vols? Tennessee wasn’t far off last year. But I still don’t think they’re quite there yet. UT Loses (3-2)
October 31 — BYE
November 7 — Tennessee @ Arkansas
This is a great game to have off a bye after playing Alabama. The only fear here is that Arkansas will be improving under Sam Pittman by this point in the season (I think Pittman will do a nice job for the Razorbacks). But while Arky might be better by the end of the year, this isn’t a game the Vols are losing. UT Wins (4-2)
November 14 — Texas A&M at Tennessee
This game and the Auburn game are the two biggest toss-up games on the schedule for the Vols. I think Tennessee wins one and loses one. I’m not a big believer in Jimbo Fisher (as I explained on the Big Orange Podcast this week), so I’ll go with the Vols over the Aggies. UT Wins (5-2)
November 21 — Tennessee @ Auburn
I just don’t see the Vols winning two in a row here. It could happen, but there’s no reason to expect it to happen. UT Loses (5-3)
November 28 — Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
The Vols are finally back in a place where the game against Vanderbilt is pretty much an automatic win. The talent gap between these two programs is starting to grow, which means the Commodores’ days of competing with Tennessee are over. UT Wins (6-3)
December 5 — Florida @ Tennessee
Playing Florida in December is probably the best-case scenario for the Volunteers. Who knows how things look by December. Maybe a significant number of fans are allowed at Neyland. Maybe Harrison Bailey overtakes Jarrett Guarantano at quarterback by the end of the season. A lot can and will change by the end of the year. But I don’t know if enough will change that I’m willing to pick Tennessee to beat a good Florida team. UT Loses (6-4)
Finishing 6-4 would be quite a finish for Tennessee with this tough ten game conference-only schedule.
I think 5-5 is the floor for Pruitt and the Vols in 2020. It’s going to be a weird year. 5-5 would be acceptable. 6-4 would be ideal for UT. 7-3 would be overachieving.
Though honestly, as long as all ten games are played it’ll be a winning season for everyone.
Featured image via Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports