The Tennessee Volunteers are just over two weeks away from kicking off their second football season under head coach Josh Heupel.
The 2022 AP preseason poll was released on Monday, and while Tennessee did not find a spot inside of the Top 25, four of Tennessee’s opponents did. Despite not receiving a Top 25 spot, though, Tennessee did come away with the most votes among unranked teams.
Tennessee will travel to take on No. 17 Pittsburgh in the second game of the season. The Vols hosted the Panthers in an unranked matchup in Neyland Stadium last season, with Pittsburgh and now-NFL quarterback Kenny Pickett taking the 41-34 victory. Tennessee will look to even things up with No. 17 Pittsburgh this season in the second game of the Johnny Majors Classic on Saturday, Sept. 10.
The Vols then have a stretch of three straight unranked opponents. However, these are just preseason rankings. Two of those three opponents are Florida and LSU, who could be ranked by the time Tennessee hosts the Gators or travels to take on the Tigers. LSU received the fifth most votes among unranked teams, effectively slotting them into the No. 30 spot heading into the season. Florida is seven spots behind LSU, essentially at the No. 37 spot.
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Tennessee’s second matchup with a preseason ranking comes all the way in mid-October when the Vols host preseason No. 1 Alabama. Despite losing the national title game to Georgia last season, the Tide return with significant momentum and is the favorable pick from analysts.
The Vols will then host UT Martin before closing off a three-game home stretch with a matchup against No. 20 Kentucky. The Wildcats will travel to Knoxville this year with revenge on their minds after last year’s heartbreaking loss in Lexington. Tennessee’s defense was able to hold strong late in the fourth quarter to cement the Vols’ upset victory over No. 18 Kentucky on the road in Heupel’s inaugural season.
After hosting Kentucky, Tennessee then turns around and hits the road for what could possibly be their last ranked matchup of the regular season. Tennessee will face preseason No. 3 Georgia on the road in Athens in the first game of November.
In comparison, Tennessee also had four preseason ranked teams on the schedule last year in No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, No. 17 Florida, and No. 20 Ole Miss. Ironically enough, Tennessee’s lone ranked win of the season last year came against Kentucky, who was also unranked in the preseason.
Tennessee ended the 2021 season playing against five ranked teams in the four preseason ranked teams plus Kentucky in November. Although they were 8-4 at the time of the game, Purdue was unranked for the Music City Bowl against Tennessee.
While it’s likely that certain games could wind up being a ranked opponent at the time of the matchup, Tennessee does officially have four ranked teams on the schedule at the start of the season. Additionally, with Tennessee already first in line, the Vols could very well make their way into the Top 25 for the second game of the season in Pittsburgh.
Tennessee Football will open up the season on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. The game will be broadcasted on the SEC Network at 7:00 p.m. ET.