By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
In what shape will opponents be in when they play the Tennessee Volunteers in football in the 2020 season?
I understand the possibility, and even likelihood, that there will be changes to the 2020 college football season, but it’s still worth looking ahead to see how the schedule could unfold.
Does the opponent have a tough physical game just before facing the Vols? Is the UT game at the end of a long stretch without an open week? Could UT’s opponent have a rival awaiting for them to look ahead to? Is the opponent coming off of a coveted open week (teams are scheduled for just one this season) when they play the Vols?
Those answers for the 2020 season are below in the UT football schedule listed. I’ve listed what each team has the week before and the week after playing Tennessee. I’ve also included team and series informations along with my summary of each game.
Sept. 5 | vs. Charlotte | Knoxville
2019: 7-6 (5-3 CUSA)
Lost to Buffalo 31-9 in Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 1-0
Last Meeting: 2018 in Knoxville (Tennessee 14 Charlotte 3)
Week Before: None – Start of Season
Week After: vs. Norfolk St.
Vince’s View: There’s no factor with this being the opener. UT typically takes care of home non-conference opponents. Let’s just hope this game is played, because it would be an indicator that the rest of the season is largely in-tact.
Sept. 12 | at Oklahoma | Norman, OK
2019: 12-2 (8-0 Big 12 & Conf. Champ)
Lost to LSU 63-28 in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Peach Bowl
All-Time Series Record: Oklahoma leads 3-1
Last Meeting: 2015 in Knoxville (Oklahoma 31 Tennessee 24 in 2 OT)
Week Before: vs. Missouri St.
Week After: at Army
Vince’s View: No schedule factor for Oklahoma or Tennessee. Both teams have light openers before this Week 2 matchup. Redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler, a former 5-star recruit, is expected to be this year’s star QB for OU. Despite some questions on defense, this should still be an elite team. This game will be a massive opportunity for Tennessee to alert the college football world that the momentum of the program with recruiting, and a likely 7-game win streak coming in, is legit under Jeremy Pruitt in his third season. At least a competitive game would be useful for UT.
Sept. 19 | Furman | Knoxville
2019: 8-5 (6-2, Southern)
Lost at Austin Peay in 1st Rd of FCS Playoffs
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 2-0
Last Meeting: 1942 in Knoxville (Tennessee 52 Furman 7)
Week Before: at Charleston Southern
Week After: vs. Western Carolina
Vince’s View: Tennessee will have the tougher lead-in with the Oklahoma game to recover from, but with it being an FCS opponent the schedule should not be a factor.
Sept. 26 | Florida | Knoxville
2019: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
Defeated Virginia 36-28 in Capital One Orange Bowl
All-Time Series Record: Florida leads 29-20
Last Meeting: 2019 in Gainesville (Florida 34 Tennessee 3)
Week Before: vs. South Alabama
Week After: vs. South Carolina
Vince’s View: Neither team has a challenge before this battle of rivals, so the schedule shouldn’t be an advantage or an excuse for either side. This is a little more likely of a marquee win opportunity than the Oklahoma game for Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee. Getting the Gators at home will raise the confidence level of the fan base that the Vols will win this game. UT has closed the gap on the Gators and Bulldogs, largely because of where the Vols came from when Pruitt took over. If the expected (by some) progress on the field has been made by UT, then this is a must-have game with tiebreaker implications. Florida should once again be stout on defense, The Gators look to have one of the better QBs in the league as well in Kyle Trask.
Oct. 3 | Missouri | Knoxville
2019: 6-6 (3-5 SEC)
All-Time Series Record: Missouri leads 5-3
Last Meeting: 2019 in Columbia, MO (Tennessee 24 Missouri 20)
Week Before: vs. Eastern Michigan
Week After: at BYU
Vince’s View: UT has the tougher opponent to bounce back from entering this game than Missouri. This will be the first time these two have met this early in the season, before November. Eli Drinkwitz takes over the Tigers program that was average a season ago. Missouri was last in the SEC in sacks last season. Unless former TCU transfer Shawn Robinson or junior Taylor Powell develop into above average QBs, Missouri should similar to last season or slightly worse.
Oct. 10 | at South Carolina | Columbia, SC
2019: 4-8 (3-5 SEC)
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 26-10-2
Last Meeting: 2019 in Knoxville (Tennessee 41 South Carolina 21)
Week Before: at Florida
Week After: Open
Vince’s View: The schedule around this game could favor Tennessee. This will be the 6th straight game for South Carolina before their open week that follows. SC will come in with two straight games on the road. Will the Gamecocks be limping to that open week? This game has also been moved-up on the schedule, as it’s the earliest the two teams have played since 2003. Will Muschamp’s seat has warmed-up after an underachieving season in 2019. He made a ton of staff changes, so that adds to the unknown of what the Gamecocks will look like. QB Ryan Hilinski needs to take the next step. South Carolina finally landed a big-time RB in recruiting in MarShawn Lloyd, a 5-star signee. He’s the elite back the Gamecocks have been looking for since Marcus Lattimore.
Oct. 17 – Open Week
Oct. 24 | Alabama | Knoxville
2019: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
Defeated Michigan 35-16 in Vrbo Citrus Bowl
All-Time Series Record: Alabama leads 57-38-7
Last Meeting: 2019 in Tuscaloosa (Alabama 35 Tennessee 13)
Week Before: vs. Mississippi St.
Week After: Open
Vince’s View: The schedule around this game favors Tennessee. Alabama faces the most opponents in the SEC with open weeks before their meeting, 3, and UT is one of them. Alabama’s open week is the next week, which means this will be the 8th straight week with games for the Crimson Tide. Then again, this isn’t the first time the scheduling advantage has been there for UT but it hasn’t changed the results. The losing streak in the series for the Vols goes back to 2006, totaling 13 games. Will Pruitt be the first former assistant to defeat Nick Saban? Kirby Smart and Lane Kiffin get their shots before Pruitt’s turn on the schedule.
Oct. 31 | at Arkansas | Fayetteville, AR
2019: 2-10 (0-8 SEC)
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 13-5
Last Meeting: 2015 in Knoxville (Arkansas 24 Tennessee 20)
Week Before: Open
Week After: at Auburn
Vince’s View: The schedule coming in clearly favors the Razorbacks. Arkansas will be coming off the open week. UT will have the typical challenge of bouncing back after playing Alabama, which is never easy for anyone. However, the Vols beat the Gamecocks the week after playing Alabama in 2019, so it can be done. If Arkansas is as bad again this year as it has been, the schedule won’t matter. How down has the Razorbacks program been? Arkansas enters the 2020 season on a 19-game SEC losing streak. Arkansas’ schedule is at MSU, vs. TAM in Arlington, vs. Bama and vs. LSU before UT comes to town. The Razorbacks could very well be on a 23-game conference losing streak when this game happens. The last SEC home win for Arkansas was November 5, 2016 vs. Florida. This will be UT’s first game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville since 2011. Former Vols assistant Sam Pittman has his hands full, in his first season, with the Arkansas rebuilding project.
Nov. 7 | Kentucky | Knoxville
2019: 8-5 (3-5 SEC)
Defeated Virginia Tech 37-30 in the Belk Bowl
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 81-25-9
Last Meeting: 2019 in Lexington (Tennessee 17 Kentucky 13)
Week Before: Open
Week After: vs. Mississippi St.
Vince’s View: Kentucky will be rested coming off it’s open week while UT be coming off the road game at Arkansas. UT has defeated UK 17 consecutive times in Knoxville dating back to 1984. Mark Stoops will have another competitive team that no one believes in. SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic told Jimmy Hyams and me on 99.1 The Sports Animal that he thinks UK and UT will be right there competing for the second-best offensive line in the SEC behind Alabama, with a chance to get to number one. The questions for Kentucky are how to the replace their quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver…Lynn Bowden Jr and who will be their QB this season? Will Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood be granted immediate eligibility and win the job? Will Terry Wilson be healthy, win the quarterback job and, if so, be effective?
Nov. 14 | at Georgia | Athens, GA
2019: 12-2 (7-1 SEC, won East Division)
Defeated Baylor 26-14 in Allstate Sugar Bowl
All-Time Series Record: Georgia leads series 24-23-2
Last Meeting: 2019 in Knoxville (Georgia 43 Tennessee 14)
Week Before: at South Carolina
Week After: at Kentucky
Vince’s View: The lead-up schedule is pretty much a wash. The most interesting scheduling aspect is that these two teams are playing so late in the season. This will be the first time they’ve met in the month of November since 1969 and only the second time they’ve played in November since 1925. Georgia is still loaded with 5-star and high 4-star talent, even if you may not recognize the names yet. Georgia will have one of the best defenses in the league and the country. If this has SEC East implications, with UT still having a shot in the East entering this game, then the season will be going pretty well for the Vols.
Nov. 21 | Troy | Knoxville
2019: 5-7 (3-5 Sun Belt)
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 1-0
Last Meeting: 2012 in Knoxville (Tennessee 55 Troy 48)
Week Before: vs. Coastal Carolina
Week After: at Appalachian St.
Vince’s View: UT obviously has the tougher lead-in game playing at rival Georgia. Troy has defeated Power 5 schools before and nearly did so when these two teams met in 2012. That was the insane Big 12-ish game where both teams had over 700 yards of offense. Thankfully for Vols fans, UT has a much better defense these days, so an upset here would be surprising.
Nov. 28 | at Vanderbilt | Nashville, TN
2019: 3-9 (1-7 SEC)
All-Time Series Record: Tennessee leads 76-32-5
Last Meeting: 2019 in Knoxville (Tennessee 28 Vanderbilt 10)
Week Before: vs. Louisiana Tech
Week After: None – End of Season
Vince’s View: The schedule is not a factor in this one. The recent success that Vanderbilt had been enjoying is also likely no longer a factor. Vandy has questions all over the place on both sides of the ball. Depending on the Commodores record entering the game, Derek Mason could be coaching to keep his job.
Find more of my broadcasting work at VinceSports.net.