A huge reason for optimism surrounding Tennessee football entering Josh Heupel’s second year is the Vols’ 2022 schedule. They finally get the Florida Gators at a good time, their non-conference Power Five foe is rebuilding, and their rotating SEC West foe has a new head coach.
Sure, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs are still on the team, but every other game could potentially be a win. The only concern beyond that is a potential letdown game, and honestly, there are no real letdown games on the schedule.
Ben Niewoehner of College Football News named the Missouri Tigers on Nov. 12 Tennessee football’s biggest letdown game. That game comes right after a visit to the Georgia Bulldogs and right before a visit to the South Carolina Gamecocks. Here’s Niewoehner’s explanation for it.
The Vols might be running on fumes after an early bye date leaves it with eight straight games to close the season. It will take on Mizzou deep into this slog, and after facing Kentucky and Georgia and with a date at South Carolina to follow.
All of that is accurate. Mizzou coming after UT hosting the Kentucky Wildcats and then visiting Georgia could make them a letdown, as the Vols will naturally be looking ahead to South Carolina on the road. However, this took the title by default.
In reality, this isn’t much of a letdown game because there shouldn’t be too much of a hangover from the UGA game the week before. If the Vols were on Georgia’s level and expecting to compete with them, it would be one thing.
However, right now, nobody expects them to compete in that game. As a result, Mizzou would be a bigger letdown game if it came right after Kentucky, a much more important matchup for the Vols. Coming after a loss to Georgia won’t be as big of a deal.
Now, if Tennessee football somehow shocks the Dawgs, then Mizzou could definitely be a letdown game, but should that happen, they won’t be too worried about South Carolina the next week. In fact, if that happens, fans will be so elated about their return to Knoxville that Mizzou could be a game they are way up for.
Simply put, Mizzou wins this title by default. The Vols don’t play Power Five teams in back to back weeks until hosting Alabama after the LSU Tigers, and Alabama can’t be a letdown game since everybody expects them to lose that anyway. It’s the same reason Georgia can’t be one.
Kentucky, meanwhile, comes right after the UT Martin Skyhawks, so that won’t be much of a letdown game, particularly when that one is more important to the Vols’ slate than Georgia or Alabama this year. That leaves Missouri or South Carolina the week after.
South Carolina does come before Tennessee football visits the Vanderbilt Commodores, but this season, that won’t be much to look ahead to. As a result, that’s not much of a letdown game either, and it leaves Mizzou as the one team left. Still, the real story is the schedule being set up to not have any of those in reality this year.