This is an overview. Predictions come later. Home games in CAPS.
9/17: at Florida
Overall, it appears the Vols ease into the season. Montana should let Tyler Bray pad his stats in the opener quite a bit. Cincy cratered last year without Brian Kelly, but it should be better this fall. How much better is up for debate, but regardless, Tennessee should be a better team. For once, getting Florida early should be an unquestionably good thing for UT as they get the transitioning Gators (in theory) before they fully understand what they're doing as a team. The month closes out with a bye, but I don't think that much is a good thing, especially with who is coming next.
10/22: at Alabama
10/29: SOUTH CAROLINA
Or maybe it is a good thing; you tell me. With Buffalo coming off of the bye, UT gets to shake off any bye week rust before hitting what is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, stretches anyone in the conference will see. Tennessee gets to tour the two preseason favorites in each of the divisions: LSU and Alabama sandwiched between Georgia and South Carolina. The schedulers did the Vols no favors here. The only good news is that all but one of the month's games are at home.
11/5: MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
11/12: at Arkansas
11/26: at Kentucky
With only four road games on the slate, Tennessee will be getting a lot of home cooking. However, with only one away game in each of the first two months of the season, that means there are two in November. MTSU provides an appetizer before a tough road game at Arkansas, but it's not easy to avoid tough road games in this league. Big Orange cruises to the finish line as always with games against Vandy and Kentucky, one each at home and on the road. Not only are the the two weakest teams in the East, but each has a serious mental block with it comes to the Vols.
I re-assert what I did in the post title: Tennessee's schedule is a pain sandwich. September and November are supremely manageable, with a single tough game in each. But October? Oh, October. That's the pain inside the sandwich, and unless these young Vols mature quickly, it's not going to be pretty. They played those same tough four teams in a row last year (at LSU, at Georgia, Alabama, at South Carolina) and lost by at least 14 points in the latter three of them. Some good came out of it, as that was the stretch that allowed Bray to pass up Matt Simms, but I can't imagine much good coming out of it if they go 0-4 again this year.