Tennessee 2020 Schedule Analysis

Tennessee 2020 schedule
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The Southeastern Conference has finally announced the revised 2020 football schedule live on SEC Network. The 10-game, conference only schedule was announced weeks ago. Last week, each team determined what cross-divisional foes they would add to complete the schedule. Now, we have a firm understanding of what the schedule will look like week to week. We can finally discuss the ins and outs of the 2020 campaign for the Vols. They are riding a six-game winning streak as they start the year. We will analyze each week of the Tennessee Volunteers 2020 schedule to see if they can carry that momentum into the new decade.

Tennessee Volunteers 2020 Football Schedule

Week 1 (9/26): @ South Carolina
Week 2 (10/3): vs. Missouri
Week 3 (10/10): @ Georgia
Week 4 (10/17): vs. Kentucky
Week 5 (10/24): vs. Alabama
Week 6 (10/31): Bye
Week 7 (11/7): @ Arkansas
Week 8 (11/14): vs Texas A&M
Week 9 (11/21): @ Auburn
Week 10 (11/28): @ Vanderbilt
Week 11 (12/5): vs Florida
Week 12 (12/12): Bye

 

Week by Week Analysis

Week 1 (9/26): @ South Carolina

Tennessee will open the 2020 schedule by facing off against Will Muschamp‘s Gamecocks in Columbia. Last year, the Vols thumped the Gamecocks 41 – 21 in Knoxville. It was a win that really jumpstarted a nice turnaround for the Volunteers season. It was also the first time a Will Muschamp team had lost to Tennessee across his career. At face value, this is obviously a much tougher start to the season than most years. Traveling to Columbia is never an easy win, and South Carolina will look to get some revenge for the 2019 embarrassment. However, most thought Tennessee was going to have to start the season against the Gators when the conference only schedule was announced. This is definitely a marked improvement on that outcome. We will see if Jeremy Pruitt can finally start off a season with a win in Knoxville.

Week 2 (10/3): vs. Missouri

Week two will bring the Vols back home to face off against the newest divisional rival, the Missouri Tigers. The Tigers have been somewhat a thorn in the Vols side since joining the SEC in 2012. They hold a 5-3 all-time advantage over Tennessee, although the Vols did take the 2019 contest in a 24-20 win in Columbia. This was also Jarrett Guarantano‘s career night, as he became only the third quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in a game in school history. This performance was a large reason he was labeled the man to beat in the 2020 quarterback position battle.

This year, the Tigers will break in a new quarterback and a new head coach. Coach Eliah Drinkwitz accepted the head coaching job after one year at Appalachian State. This is Drinkwitz’s first power five job, and he is going to experience a baptism by fire in the SEC. Missouri starts the season playing Bama in Week 1. This is good news for the Vols. There’s a very good chance the Tigers will be beaten up and dejected after a tough loss from Bama. The early draw with many unknowns makes this a great draw for the Vols.

Week 3 (10/10): @ Georgia

The Vols annual rivalry with the Bulldogs will fall in week three this year. Originally, the Bulldogs were slated to be much later in the season for the first time in years. However, circumstances dictated that this annual matchup be moved back into its original slot.

This is actually likely good news for the Vols. There are many questions for the Bulldogs, including breaking in a new quarterback. While the Bulldogs quarterback room may be among the most talented in the conference, it will take time to develop chemistry. Early in the season will be the best time to catch the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs will also be coming off a tough rivalry game against Auburn and could be looking ahead to their pivotal week four matchup at Alabama. There’s no good time to draw the odds-on favorite to win the division, but this is a good spot for the Vols to catch the Bulldogs off guard.

Week 4 (10/17): vs. Kentucky

This is the first of a couple of dangerous trap games for Tennessee in its 2020 schedule. They will be coming off a tough divisional matchup on the road in Athens and could get caught looking ahead to the Third Saturday in October. The Vols barely squeaked out a tough come from behind win in Lexington last year. With no Lynn Bowden Jr., the Cats are missing their top playmaker from last year as well. Still, they are returning a lot of key pieces, especially in the trenches. If the Vols don’t respect this Kentucky team, they could pose some problems. The Wildcats haven’t won in Knoxville since 1984. The Vols need to be disciplined to keep the Beer Barrel in the newly established Saloon 16 in downtown Knoxville.

Week 5 (10/24): vs. Alabama

There’s no “good” time to see the Crimson Tide on your schedule. Until further notice, this game is going to continue to be an uphill climb for the Volunteers. That being said, there are some positives to draw from this timing. The Vols faithful and Tide fans alike will be happy to see the tradition of the Third Saturday in October protected in an uncertain year. Also, there are worse bookends to draw for this annual tilt. Tennessee fans will remember the 2016 gauntlet of Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama in back-to-back weeks. That stretch derailed the most promising season for the Big Orange since 2007. This draw doesn’t seem so daunting.

Week 6 (10/31): Bye

You would like to see this bye week come a week earlier to allow proper preparations for the annual tilt against the Crimson Tide. However, this will give the Vols some much needed time to recuperate from what will no doubt be a tough, physical game against their cross-division rival. Being smack in the middle of the season is good for injury management and mitigation as well. Overall, not a bad time to get a week off. Vol fans can enjoy trick-or-treating without the risk of heartbreak over a Vols loss. (Although some will be disappointed we will likely not get to see the black Halloween jerseys as promised).

Week 7 (11/7): @ Arkansas

Tennessee’s other planned cross-divisional opponent for 2020, the Razorbacks, will host the Vols in Week seven. This is the first time Tennessee will travel to Arkansas since 2011 when the Vols were utterly embarrassed in a 49-7 loss. More recently, the Hogs upset the Vols in Knoxville in 2015 24-20 despite trailing for much of the game. This year may be a different story. The Razorbacks are in full rebuild mode after a disastrous one year under Chad Morris saw the young coach let go. Now, Sam Pittman, one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, will take over his first head coaching job in his career. He will also have the misfortune of drawing the most difficult schedule in the country bar none in year one. Ideally, the Vols should be able to take advantage of some first-year growing pains to handle the Hogs.

Week 8 (11/14): vs Texas A&M

Texas A&M is Tennessee’s first late addition to the schedule in light of the abridged schedule. Initial reports thought this opponent might be Ole Miss or LSU. While the return of Lane Kiffin would have no doubt generated some incredible storylines to follow, there is little doubt the Aggies are the more dangerous team in 2020. Senior quarterback Kellen Mond will return to lead a talented offense in year three of the Jimbo Fisher era. Hosting the Aggies is better than having to travel to Kyle field: a lesson the Vols learned well in 2016. This will be one game the Vols will need to bring their A-game to win.

Week 9 (11/21): @ Auburn

Auburn was the second added cross-divisional opponent for the Vols this season. Before the SEC divided into divisions, this matchup used to be an annual rivalry with some instant classics, including the 1985 “Bo Who?” game and the 1997 SEC Championship game.

Now, a new Bo will lead the Tigers against the Vols. No doubt the Auburn faithful will want some payback for the stunning upset at Jordan-Hare in 2018. That game snapped an 11-game conference losing streak for the Vols and acted as the cornerstone for the early Pruitt era. It also doesn’t hurt that the Iron Bowl happens to be next week, and will be looming large in the face of the home team. Pruitt and Company will look to take advantage of the Tigers again and do something Pruitt has become accustomed to doing: winning on the road against the Tigers.

Week 10 (11/28): @ Vanderbilt

For the first time in years, the Vols will not end the season against their in-state rival. Instead, they will play them on Thanksgiving weekend in perhaps the worst trap game of the season. Tennessee will be coming off a tough road game at Auburn and likely looking ahead to the biggest game on their schedule. Right in the middle is a seemingly routine trip to Nashville.

However, Tennessee fans need no reminder that Vanderbilt has shown more fight in the last decade than they had for the half-century before that. While the Vols did take last year’s contest in a rainy, messy game, they are 1-3 in the past 4 seasons. To Vanderbilt, a win over Tennessee cements a winning season regardless of record. His positive record against the Vols is a key reason head coach Derek Mason still has a job. They have framed the vest he wore in a win against the Vols. That should give you all the indication you need of Vanderbilt’s motivation in this terrible trap game on Tennessee’s 2020 schedule.

Week 11 (12/5): vs Florida

This brings us to the final game of the planned 2020 season. The Vols will finally get their chance to take on hated divisional rival Florida. This is the first time the Vols will take on the Gators after the first weekend in October since 2001. That 2001 game also had to be rescheduled due to a life-altering national emergency, the attack on the twin towers. That year, an undefeated, No. 1 ranked Gators squad hosted the 9-1 No. 4 ranked Volunteers.

This was the penultimate culmination of this storied rivalry. The winner would ultimately decide the SEC East crown. While the series has lost some of its national luster, the disdain is more than present. If some chips fall right for the Volunteers, this game could have SEC title implications once more. If not, then the Vols get a chance to play spoiler to their hated rival. Either way, there should be plenty of excitement in Knoxville when the calendar turns to December.

The Gators have a nasty habit of faltering late in the season and losing a game or two they shouldn’t as well. 2017 and 2018 Missouri as well as 2016 Florida State are a few examples. The Vols on the other hand has shown a propensity for improving as the season progresses. Case and point, the active six-game winning streak for the Vols. If these trends continue, the late-season matchup with the Gators is much more appetizing for an upset than the original date. It will still be a tough hill to climb, but the Vols will lack no motivation when the Gators come to town.

Week 12 (12/12): Bye

All teams will have a planned bye in week 12 before the SEC Championship the ensuing weekend. While there isn’t much to discuss now, this week may be used to make up any games postponed due to COVID-19 in the regular season. That could completely change the dynamic of the season for any team. We will have to wait and see if this comes to fruition in any tangible way for the Tennessee 2020 schedule.

The Last Word on the Tennessee 2020 Schedule

In all, the Tennessee 2020 schedule will again stand as one of the most difficult in the country. Having Alabama as your permanent cross-divisional rival will all but ensure that much. Still, a closer look at the Vols schedule shows there is more to like than dislike across the season as a whole. Tennessee never has to take on any of its traditional rivals (Alabama, Georgia, Florida) in back-to-back weeks. Tennessee also gets a much-needed bye right after Alabama, and the Florida game comes in late December where the Gators have shown a propensity to lose steam. There are some definite pitfalls that the Vols will have to maneuver, but the schedule could have looked much worse for the big orange. Vol fans should look on with some excitement and hope for the 2020 Tennessee Volunteers Football Schedule.

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