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SEC Releases 2012 Football Schedule

The Southeastern Conference has at long last released the 2012 Conference Football Schedule after a month of hand-wringing and anticipation by the fans! At first glance, things just got a lot easier for a lot of teams. Let’s take a look at the Tennessee schedule.

Sept. 1 – NC State (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 – Georgia State
Sept. 15 – Florida
Sept. 22 – Akron
Sept. 29 – at Georgia
Oct. 6 – Open
Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
Oct. 20 – Alabama
Oct. 27 – at South Carolina
Nov. 3 – Troy
Nov. 10 – Missouri
Nov. 17 – at Vanderbilt
Nov. 24 – Kentucky
(Home games in bold)

As I said, things just got a lot easier. Compared with the schedule of the last two years, the Vols have really hit a good time to make great strides. A team largely composed of juniors and sophomores with a lot of experience, with good freshmen coming in; Tennessee should finally be able to reap some rewards. This is not to say there will be a season of contending for titles; I don’t think that’s going to happen until 2013. I tweeted earlier today that in this schedule, there are only 3 sure wins, one sure loss and 8 “I dunno” games.

I fully expect to see wins over Georgia State, Akron, and Troy. Possibly by three touchdowns minimum. I also fully expect a loss to Alabama. It’s the other games that give me pause, as I honestly have no idea what to say. Yes, I’m including Kentucky in that category after this year’s debacle. Let’s try to break this down.

Sept. 1 – North Carolina State
Did anyone watch the Belk Bowl outside of Louisville? I didn’t like what I saw. NC State has an offense that could really light it up if it executes. I don’t think they have the defense to stop Tyler Bray and Co. If the Vols figure out how to run the ball in the offseason, it will be a long day for NC State and this will be an easy win. If we have the same rushing ineptitude of 2011, this could be a very tight game. This is a true toss-up game that will go a long way to telling us what the 2012 Vols will be like. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 31-28

Sept. 8 – Georgia State
I know nothing about Georgia State. I do know that they’re small enough not to pose any real threat unless we have another day like last November in Lexington. A I-AA team that went 3-8, the Panthers are going to get embarrassed in Knoxville. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 65-7

Sept. 15 – Florida
For once, I have no idea how this game is going to turn out. Last season was competitive even with the injury to Justin Hunter putting the Vols behind in a hurry. The defense should be better able to handle a Florida still trying to find its way on offense, and Florida will immediately have played Texas A&M the week before in what should be a tough game. Florida does not have the continuity of Georgia and will be looking to find its identity in this game. I see this game also going close, and I think this could possibly be the year we finally beat Florida again. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 24-21

Sept. 22 – Akron
Akron only won a single game last year. I’m not sure I really need to talk much about this one. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 55-0

Sept. 29 – at Georgia
I see Mark Richt’s team carrying their 2011 momentum over into 2012 with a very forgiving schedule. Georgia could quite possibly run the table, though I don’t see them winning the SEC Championship nor going to the BCS Championship if they do. If they can get through Vanderbilt, they will come into this game 4-0 with a full head of steam. I’m not sure, with their continuity (unlike Florida), that Tennessee is ready to get past Georgia. Chalk this one up as the first loss of the season. PREDICTION: Georgia, 28-17.

Oct. 13 – at Mississippi State
I really hate not knowing. The Bulldogs put beatdowns on everyone in Dan Mullen’s first season in Starkville, but with no one surprised by them in 2011, they slipped to 6-6. This is another team that also could be unbeaten if they can get past Auburn in September. I’ll be watching their game against Troy if it’s on TV, as the Vols play them later on. Since Tennessee is traveling to where there is more cowbell, I’m going to chalk this one up as a second loss. PREDICTION: Miss. State, 26-24

Oct. 20 – Alabama
You know what I absolutely love? The Third Saturday In October. It returns with a vengeance to Knoxville. On the actual Third Saturday in October! The Vols could well be playing the defending national champs (depending on the outcome of the upcoming game), and Alabama will be reloading. As much as it pains me, I don’t really need to explain that this will be a loss, unless the Vols play a perfect game. Look for Bama to pull away in the 4th quarter. PREDICTION: Alabama, 35-21

Oct. 27 – at South Carolina
Again, I don’t know. This is grating at me. We should know by this time whether or not the Gamecocks continue their offensive shenanigans or if it has settled into a Spurrier offense. If they continue their struggles, Tennessee should win big this time around. Since they will have played Vanderbilt, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, and Florida already, South Carolina could be hurting and looking for a big win. I think this time around the Vols will have Tyler Bray to finish the job. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 38-21

Nov. 3 – Troy
Another team that only won 3 games last season. Look for another blowout. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 48-7

Nov. 10 – Missouri
I’ve said this too many times already: I don’t know. The Tigers were only competitive in one of their losses, but they beat a ranked Texas and a ranked Texas A&M. I don’t know how they’ll respond to a higher level of competition in the SEC. They still have 3 non-conference games to schedule, but a glance at what they currently have shows they could have zero wins by the time they play Kentucky 2 weeks before this game. I don’t think they’ll beat anyone on the conference schedule before then. I’m gonna say Tennessee has a big conference win here. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 45-10

Nov. 17 – at Vanderbilt
This is the one game on the schedule that actually scares me. Vanderbilt got scary good in a hurry, and very easily could have been 10-2 instead of 6-6. They will be bowl-eligible before this game, I believe, unless the Miss. State effect shows up and no one is surprised by them this season. This will be a close, hard-fought game. I want to believe the Vols don’t want a repeat of the OT game and get this done in regulation. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 24-21.

Nov. 24 – Kentucky
I want to believe this Vols team will be out for blood after the embarrassing showing in Lexington, which I attended, and a game which I will never be going back to Lexington for after the way Kentucky fans treated us. I still want to see a game in Rupp Arena, but after that I’m done with Lexington. The Mildcats will likely have only won 3 games by the end of the season and coming up on a Tennessee team that will be out to answer for 2011. PREDICTION: Tennessee, 45-17.

Final Predicted Record: 9-3
This is an extremely optimistic prediction. 8-4 or 7-5 might be more realistic, but I do think there will be surprises for us vs. Florida and South Carolina. If there are major injuries again this season, 7-5 is the bottom line. Let’s all look forward to football time in Tennessee 2012!

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