Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the SEC is going to be tough this year.
While Tennessee’s 2019 schedule shakes out more favorably than it has in quite some time, the Vols will still face a daunting conference slate in Jeremy Pruitt’s second season at the helm.
On Wednesday, ESPN released their Football Power Index Preseason Top Ten, which was once against littered with SEC teams, three of which Tennessee will play in 2019.
Our Football Power Index has Clemson as the early favorite pic.twitter.com/eVWEJM33P1— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) April 17, 2019
Don’t forget, FPI has Tennessee ranked 15th in the nation to start.
The Vols will open league play on Sept. 21 in Gainesville against No. 8 Florida before playing host to two top five FPI top five teams in the month of October against No. 3 Georgia (Oct. 5) and No. 2 Alabama (Oct. 19).
One favorable aspect about Tennessee’s schedule in the non-conference match ups which include the season opener at home against Georgia State out of the Sun Belt and FCS foe Chattanooga.
While a UAB team that spent some time in top 25 in 2018 will come to Knoxville in early November and BYU in week two, those contests are far cry from opening with Will Grier and West Virginia right out of the gate on a neutral site like the Vols did last season, or Georgia Tech and the triple option like they faced in week one in 2017.
The path to bowl eligibility is more than there for Tennessee, but games like the ones at Florida and Alabama and against Georgia will be a tall task for them to pull off. Factor in South Carolina, Missouri and Vanderbilt—three teams the Vols have gone a combined 1-8 against since the 2016 season, and it will be as tough as usual in SEC play.
Marked improvement between Pruitt’s first and second season could go a long way Tennessee’s push for the postseason.