The 2016 Tennessee Volunteers are a shining example of just how much a team’s schedule can impact its season. Following wins against SEC East foes Florida and Georgia, the Vols would emerge from the first half of a particularly brutal four-game stretch with a perfect 5-0 record. Unfortunately, the back half of that gauntlet would prove to be particularly exhausting for Butch Jones' team, both mentally and physically. Not only did the Volunteers fall to 5-2 following losses to Alabama and Texas A&M, mounting injuries and fatigue also started to take a serious toll down the stretch. A disheartened Tennessee team would go on to suffer upset losses to both South Carolina and Vanderbilt, ultimately costing them a shot at an SEC East title.
Fortunately, the Vols’ 2017 schedule appears to be much more forgiving in comparison to last season. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the upcoming slate is without its share of serious challenges and potential pitfalls. Tennessee will have to go on the road to face its two biggest adversaries in Florida and Alabama. Matchups against Georgia and LSU should prove to be quite difficult even in Knoxville. And the Volunteers have a tough draw against Georgia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta to open the season. The good news is that none of those matchups fall in consecutive weeks, and the remaining games that fill the gaps should be far less taxing compared to 2016.
2017 Tennessee Volunteers Schedule
Bye: Week 6
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.