Tennessee football should benefit from the delay in SEC scheduling

The SEC has dragged its sneakers on a permanent scheduling format for its expanded 16-team conference. But Tennessee football can’t complain.

The SEC’s transition schedule should work in his favor.

It doesn’t matter that the conference canceled divisional play. The “interim” schedule brings back memories of Tennessee’s most dominant days in the SEC East.

This season and next season, the Vols will again play Vanderbilt and Kentucky, two teams that tend to fold at the sight of the Dutch. The Vols have won 36 of their past 39 games against the Wildcats and 35 of their past 41 games against the Commodores.

They can’t complain about a few new additions to the schedule either. They will play Arkansas and Mississippi State each of the next two seasons.

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman is on the hot seat. Jeff Lebby will start his head coaching career at Mississippi State, which is in its third coach in three seasons.

Playing Oklahoma each of the next two seasons will be a challenge. But it won’t be as challenging as playing the Sooners when they were competing for the national championship.

We still don’t know where Oklahoma will go under third-year coach Brent Venables, who addressed fans’ concerns by going 6-7 in 2022. That was Oklahoma’s worst record in 25 years. The Sooners improved to 10-3 last season but lost star quarterback Dillon Gabriel to the transfer portal.

The Vols could also benefit from playing Florida the next two seasons. The Gators have lost seven games each of the last two seasons under coach Billy Napier, who is on the verge of coaching himself out of a job.

Florida plays one of the toughest schedules in the country this season. Unless Napier can exceed expectations, the Gators could appoint a new coach in 2025 when they take on Tennessee in The Swamp.

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UT’s chances for success over the next two seasons will be enhanced by favorable non-conference schedules. September’s game against NC State in Charlotte will be Tennessee’s toughest non-conference game this season, and the other three non-conference opponents should provide little resistance.

The Vols 2025 non-conference schedule is even weaker.

Syracuse will be Tennessee’s only Power 4 non-conference opponent in 2025. But “power” isn’t the word that comes to mind when reading through the program’s recent history. Syracuse went 6-7 a year ago and has had just two winning seasons in the past decade. The rest of Tennessee’s 2025 nonconference schedule is laughable: ETSU, UAB and New Mexico State.

Tennessee should have the resources to take advantage of the next two schedules. Nico Iamaleava should be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he will be surrounded by veteran complementary talent.

The Vols will need to restructure their offensive line in 2025. But they have enough NIL resources to finance such a transition. If that means overspending, then so be it.

The payoff could be worth it.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He can be reached at 865-342-6284 or [email protected]. Follow him on: twitter.com/johnadamskns.