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CBS Sports ranks strength of schedule within the SEC

Tennessee near the top, no surprise.

Tennessee v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

You know what you’re getting every single year playing in the SEC. The nation’s best conference produces weekly tests and very few breathers, especially for a rebuilding program like Tennessee.

Playing in the east brings guaranteed contests against Florida and Georgia, while the Vols have a protected rivalry matchup with Alabama. Those three games will typically define the season for the Volunteers. It’s no different this year, but Tennessee has another vital matchup in front of them before they even dive into the conference slate.

Oklahoma will host Tennessee during week two of the college football season, creating an interesting matchup between one of college football’s best and a program desperately clawing to get back to the top. After last season’s strong finish, there’s at least some optimism around this game for Tennessee fans.

For what it’s worth, Oklahoma opened as a seven point favorite over the Vols.

Thanks to this aggressive scheduling, Tennessee landed second in CBS Sports’ SEC strength of schedule rankings for 2020. Writer Tom Fornelli put the Volunteers behind only Arkansas, who must navigate the SEC West and take on Notre Dame in a non-conference matchup.

Here’s Fornelli’s explanation.

Tennessee’s game against Oklahoma on the road is more difficult than Arkansas’ against Notre Dame by my metric, but the Vols other nonconference games don’t quite match up with Arkansas. Also, while the Vols get Alabama, Florida and Georgia, they also get Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Ole Miss made up the rest of the top five. Alabama came in sixth, thanks to a matchup with USC and a regular season meeting with Georgia. Bringing up the rear are the Florida Gators, thanks to Florida State’s decline and drawing Ole Miss out of the west.

Back to Tennessee. With this tough schedule ahead, what defines a successful season? To me it’s just beating everyone you’re supposed to beat, along with surprising one of these four teams you’re not supposed to beat along the way. That would probably put Tennessee around 9-3, which everyone would probably take and run if you offered it.

What about you? Considering the schedule, what defines success?