Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The SEC has taken some heat, and rightfully so in a lot of cases, for its nonconference scheduling.
Most of the schools now, though, are at least making an effort to schedule some legitimate nonconference matchups. Tennessee has been one of the leaders in that area and has historically played one marquee nonconference game every year, usually an intersectional matchup.
The Vols keep adding, too. They announced on Wednesday that they have agreed contractually to play Cincinnati during the 2011 season in Knoxville. The Bearcats won the Big East Conference championship last season and played in the Orange Bowl. Their coach, Brian Kelly, was one of the candidates Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton interviewed for the Vols' head coaching job last year.
Tennessee will also play North Carolina in 2011, and when you look at the Vols' first seven games that season, it's obvious that Lane Kiffin has his work cut out.
After opening the season against North Texas at home, Tennessee faces Cincinnati at home, then North Carolina and Florida on the road in back-to-back weeks, before returning home to face Georgia following a bye. The Vols will close out that grueling stretch with a home game against LSU and then a road game against Alabama.
The 2010 schedule features a home date with Oregon the second week of the season and is equally daunting with road games against Georgia and LSU and home games with Florida and Alabama, all in the first seven weeks of the season.
It doesn't get much easier down the road, either. Oklahoma, Nebraska and Ohio State are all set to appear on the Vols' schedule in the next 10 years.