There are two competing narratives when it comes to Tennessee this year. The first is the subpar debut of Derek Dooley in 2010, though little of that can be blamed on a talented coach who was nonetheless a triage hire. The other is how much the Vols might improve in the second year of Dooley's tenure, and whether that will translate to additional wins.
In addition to a repeat of last year's middle-heavy schedule, the Vols actually face an additional few hurdles this year. Ole Miss rotates off the schedule -- replaced by Arkansas, which should be a better team even without Ryan Mallett. The early-season game against the new-look Gators, a possible win, is set in the Swamp this go around. Having Georgia, LSU and South Carolina all at home is a double-edged sword; it makes two of the potential wins road games that will be difficult to convert. It would not be a surprise to see the Vols win just one game in October.
The upset against Arkansas is based in part on the Hogs' surrounding schedule, with South Carolina before and Mississippi State and a visit to LSU afterward. The chance of an upset at LSU should be obvious for anyone who watched last year's game. By the way, "win" here means that the Vols are leading when the clock hits zero; that is not a guarantee of anything when Tennessee is involved.
Place: 4th in the SEC East
Record: 7-5, 3-5 SEC
Could be: 4-8 to 9-3
Best chance for an upset: LSU
9.3.11 | MONTANA | WIN
9.10.11 | CINCINNATI | POSSIBLE WIN
9.17.11 | at FLORIDA | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.1.11 | BUFFALO | WIN
10.8.11 | GEORGIA | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.15.11 | LSU | POSSIBLE LOSS
10.22.11 | at ALABAMA | PROBABLE LOSS
10.29.11 | SOUTH CAROLINA | POSSIBLE LOSS
11.5.11 | MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE | WIN
11.12.11 | at ARKANSAS | POSSIBLE WIN
11.19.11 | VANDERBILT | PROBABLE WIN
11.26.11 | at KENTUCKY | POSSIBLE WIN