Tennessee Football 2011: Looking at the SEC East Schedule for the Volunteers
Last year, new head coach Derek Dooley deemed the season "Year Zero" because of how much needed to be rebuilt in Knoxville.
Now, it’s Year One, and the Vols are looking to move forward after a below-average season for the former SEC power.
The Tennessee Volunteers have a lot of questions across the board, and as competitors in the toughest conference, they need to get to the answers sooner rather than later.
The non-conference schedule for the Orange is nothing short of pathetic with the toughest test at home against Cincinnati on September 10th. Other non-conference contests include visits from Montana, Buffalo and MTSU.
The SEC East is always a strong division but not at the same projected level of the SEC West this season, and the Vols’ draw of competition from the West is none too favorable with LSU at home, Alabama at Bryant-Denny and on the road against Arkansas.
However, the SEC East schedule always possesses a couple games that are guaranteed wins, so the Vol fans shouldn’t feel too down about an unwinnable schedule, but they shouldn’t be kicking back with a cold one just yet either.
The five games against the SEC East’s competition will provide a challenge in the Vol’s second season under Derek Dooley, and here is a closer look at each game of their SEC East competition.
1. Sept. 10 at Florida
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
One of the top rivalries of the SEC East is always a great show, if you’re a Gator fan, that is.
The rivalry with the reptiles from Gainesville has become decidedly one-sided over the past decade.
The battle goes to The Swamp this year, and the Vols will be looking to reverse their recent fortunes against Florida.
It will be a difficult task for the Volunteers to gain a victory in Gainesville, but not impossible, and this would be as good a chance as any for a Vols’ victory to occur, but then again maybe not.
Projection: 24-17. Gators. Sad to say I think the Gators will continue their dominance over the Vols, but I do believe it will be a good game with a chance for Tennessee to win, which is more than anyone can say about some of the recent contests.
2. Oct. 8 vs. Georgia
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Last year, the Bulldogs got some sweet revenge on the Volunteers in Athens by spanking them like it was going out of style. The revenge of corporal punishment came after the Vols drubbed Georgia in Knoxville in 2009.
This year will be an interesting matchup with UGA coach Mark Richt supposedly coaching for his job against Derek Dooley in another rebuilding year.
It is very likely the game will be a low-scoring affair with both programs having questions on the offensive side of the ball.
I don’t want to get the hopes of Volunteer nation up with the rest of my analysis, but this is not going to be a celebratory Saturday for the Volunteers in Knoxville.
Projection: 17-14. Bulldogs. I think the game goes to Georgia in this series with the Vols keeping it close but never leading.
3. Oct. 29 vs. South Carolina
Derek Dooley and the Volunteers will steal one from the Gamecocks this year.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The last time the Gamecocks dropped by Neyland Stadium, the Vols dropped them without a second thought.
He "Who Must Not Be Named" was coaching then and led the Volunteers to a resounding win. Now, it’s Dooley’s turn against the head ball coach at Neyland, and he should be looking to improve upon last year’s 38-24 losing performance.
A lot of hype is surrounding the South Carolina program this year, and it is the perfect time for UT to bust in and be the upset special of the week.
We also have no way of knowing which Stephen Garcia will show up—the world-beater or the third stringer who’s looking forward to the frat party after the game more than playing time. Because of this, the Vols have a great chance to steal one from the SEC East favorites.
Projection: 31-21. Volunteers. The Vols get one from the head ball coach as Neyland Stadium is rocking, and the jokes flow about all things Spurrier.
4. Nov. 19 vs. Vanderbilt
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The annual uninteresting game of the week against Vandy has become rather important to the Vols in recent years with the Orange often needing a win to become bowl eligible.
This year will be no different for Tennessee.
The only thing Vanderbilt students have on the Tennessee student section is that they will more than likely be employing them in a future where UT still wins this rivalry game.
Do not fret Volunteers, for the Commodores will always be the academic cupcake of the SEC.
Projection: 30-10. Volunteers. Tennessee wins again while Vandy makes their biannual field trip to East Tennessee.
5. Nov. 26 at Kentucky
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
For the entirety of my life, the Volunteers have beaten the Wildcats on the gridiron.
And I don’t really see that changing.
Big Blue hosts the battle with Big Orange in Lexington this year. It’s not even a battle; it’s more like Big Blue offers up their sacrificial game to the conquerors from the south.
Even though the Volunteers are on a string of down years, they will still find a way to win this game. The inverse is true to in that even if Kentucky has a good year, they will still find a way to lose the game.
Vol fans fear not, for there is no way I could project a loss to the Wildcats, even on the road.
Projection: 30-10. Volunteers. Not much to say about this one other than, “Keep the streak going.”