Tennessee has played one of the toughest strength of schedules in the nation over the past few years. And while 2016 will be far from easy for the Vols, it looks like there could be a bit of a reprieve, at least by a few metrics.
College football pundit Phil Steele came out with his look at strength of schedule for the 2016 season earlier in the offseason, and Tennessee, at least compared to many SEC counterparts, doesn’t have quite the grueling schedule it has in the past.
In terms of opponents’ winning percentage from 2015, Tennessee’s schedule comes in 27th nationally at 58.2%. And while 27th is still relatively high, put that in context of just the SEC and it comes in eighth in the conference – putting the Vols in the lower half of the conference in that regard.
Of course, as Steele notes in his article, opponents’ win-loss record is a very inexact science in college football. Nobody would rather face Tennessee (9-4 in 2015) than Western Kentucky (12-2 2015) in 2016, for example. But there are other ways to measure strength of schedule as well, and many of them work out in Tennessee’s favor.
The Vols join Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky as the only four SEC teams that will play just two teams that finished 2015 ranked. The rest of the SEC has three or more on the slate. And only Georgia (5) and South Carolina (6) play less teams that made it to the postseason last year as does Tennessee (7).
The downturn of the SEC East, and the challenging, but less-than-brutal, non-conference schedule certainly play into Tennessee hands in terms of providing a more navigable path to a big win total in 2016.