After weeks of speculation, Southeastern Conference schools have officially released their respective 2012 schedules.
Before the conference grew by two teams—Texas A&M and Missouri—Tennessee had Arkansas and Alabama on its 2012 schedule. With Missouri's addition to the SEC East, the Tigers will replace Arkansas on the Vols' schedule.
Tennessee will play Alabama and Mississippi State from the SEC West. The Vols played the West's big three—LSU, Alabama and Arkansas—in 2011.
Opening the season with North Carolina State will be a tough task for the Vols. The Wolfpack finished their 2011 season winning four of their last five games before defeating Louisville in the Belk Bowl.
North Carolina State brings back the majority of its starters, losing just four on either side of the ball. Quarterback Mike Glennon will be back for the Wolfpack as well. NC State's highly-ranked defense will remain almost fully intact.
Tennessee defeated Cincinnati in Knoxville early this season, but NC State appears to be a much tougher opponent heading into 2012—at least on paper—than the Bearcats were in 2011.
The Vols will play Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on the road in 2012. Tennessee will host Georgia State, Florida, Akron, Alabama, Troy, Missouri and Kentucky.
Perhaps the best news about the restructured schedule is that the Vols play only three games in October, thus ensuring Tennessee will not lose four games in the season's second month for the first time since 2009.
2012 Tennessee Football Schedule
Sept. 1 North Carolina State (at Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 8 Georgia State
Sept. 15 Florida
Sept. 22 Akron
Sept. 29 at Georgia
Oct. 13 at Mississippi State
Oct. 20 Alabama
Oct. 27 at South Carolina
Nov. 3 Troy
Nov. 10 Missouri
Nov. 17 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 24 Kentucky