DOOLEY 2012: Change is Coming Part II - Schedule

This year, the only place we'd be seeing these guys is the Georgia Dome.

This is an excerpt from Rocky Top Tennessee 2012 magazine, on sale now.

Schedule: As easy as it will ever be

Truly, there is no such thing as "easy" in the SEC, especially if you're Tennessee and must face Alabama as your annual cross-division rival. Ten of Derek Dooley's fourteen losses have come against Top 20 foes, and the unranked Georgia team that beat the Vols last October turned into the SEC East Champion in December. What's more, Tennessee has faced a participant in the BCS Championship Game in each of the last six seasons, and last year played both Alabama and LSU on consecutive Saturdays. It's never easy in Knoxville.

But for the Vols, 2012 is as kind as the schedule is going to get under the current format. Alabama comes to Knoxville, and while Georgia and South Carolina appear to be the greatest threats in the East Division on paper and those games will be played in Athens and Columbia, Florida remains the more pressing issue for the Vols…and the Gators come to Knoxville too. SEC expansion added Missouri to the docket, also in Knoxville, but also dropped a talented Arkansas team from the 2012 schedule, leaving the Vols with a much more manageable trip to Starkville to face Mississippi State as their rotating SEC West foe this year. And while NC State is certainly no pushover, the Wolfpack – like Cincinnati last year – are a far cry from the usual non-conference marquee opponent Tennessee has faced in the past and will face in the future. Though the season opener will be played in the Georgia Dome, Tennessee's personal house of horrors, it should be a partisan Volunteer crowd. The other non-conference foes are Georgia State, Akron, and Troy, which should translate into wins.

Simply put, just like depth, experience, and talent, the quality of the opponent will no longer be an excuse for Dooley's Vols. It's an opportunity that will vanish quickly: the 2013 Vols will travel to Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, and Eugene, Oregon. The Vols are also contracted to face Oklahoma and Nebraska in home-and-home series from 2014 to 2017. The program seeks a return to the days when Tennessee took on all comers without batting an eye and gave as good as they got. But in this and any year, all a team can do is play the hand it's dealt. Can the Vols take advantage of the opportunity the schedule provides?

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Order the 116-page full color print version of Rocky Top Tennessee 2012 by July 3 and get free shipping, a free copy of the ebook that you can download immediately, and delivery of the print edition the week of July 9. It's the only Tennessee Football preseason magazine you need. Full details here.

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