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2016 Tennessee Football Schedule

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

In our preview thread we mentioned a nightmare scenario:  from a year away, four games clearly stand out as the toughest for the championship-minded 2016 Vols.  Alabama will be Alabama, Florida and Georgia should both be stronger, and the SEC West rotation sends the Vols to Texas A&M.

And the schedule will give the Vols those four games in a row, with no bye til the end:

When we began talking about the 2015 season, we came to some consensus on a narrative:  five wins, one loss (that almost wasn't) at Alabama, and six coin flips.  You never know exactly how these things are going to turn out; we assumed South Carolina and Missouri would be coin flips, and they look like two of the worst teams in the league.  But the idea was if you split your coin flips, you go 8-4 and make progress.  Turned out the Vols have gone 1-3 in the coin flips thus far, then almost beat Alabama.

But from a distance, we talked about on our podcast this week about only four coin flips in 2016, and how if you split those you're 10-2 and in the championship conversation.  But you did't want to see those games four weeks in a row, or even five in a row with a bye somewhere in there.  All the conversations about Alabama playing us tired will come back to haunt us next year.

But, you play the hand you're dealt.  The elite Tennessee teams of old would say they'll play anyone, anywhere, anytime.  If this is an elite Tennessee team again in 2016, we'll find out over the course of four weeks in September and October.