Another year, another rough October. At least the 2012 Tennessee Volunteers don't have as brutal a September or November, as they did in 2011.
The beginning of the season is winnable and of paramount importance for the Vols. The kickoff to the season against NC State in Atlanta is just north of a pick-'em game, with Tennessee as three- to four-point favorites.
After that, the schedule alternates between two easy games against Georgia State and Akron and two hard games against Florida and Georgia. The worst the Vols should be heading into October is 3-2. The best, naturally, is an attainable 5-0.
October brings a challenging road game against a Mississippi State team that underachieved last year, followed by the always-difficult annual contest against Alabama. This year the Bama game is in Neyland, giving the Vols a decent chance, especially if the season has gone well and they're riding a wave of enthusiasm.
October closes with another tough game, at South Carolina. The Gamecocks had a historically good season last year and might be even better this year. The Vols could easily go 0-3 in October this year, though I think they have a solid chance of beating Mississippi State.
November's success will be dictated by the events of the season. Tennessee could be as good as 5-3 or as bad as 3-5, which doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it means the world in terms of motivation for the last month.
Troy is an automatic win. Missouri and Vanderbilt back to back pose threats to the Volunteers, though the Tigers' first trip to Neyland should be hard on them and the Commodores might be the most overrated team in the country (Vandy went 2-10 after a 7-6 season in 2010...hold your horses).
The Vols are likely to seek revenge against Kentucky in the last game of the season after their winning streak was ended last year.
The schedule is tough, but it's a big improvement over 2011.