It’s been a big week for the Tennessee football program.
On Monday the much anticipated “Battle at Bristol,” was announced, and confirmed for September 10, 2016. Also, for the fourth time in seven games this season the Volunteers will appear on national television when they host the No. 11 South Carolina Gamecocks at noon on ESPN. They’ll also appear on CBS for their SEC game of the week when they travel to Alabama next Saturday, October 26. That game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m.
When it comes to the rebuilding task first-year head coach Butch Jones has been faced with he really can’t ask for much more. As it stands now he has enlisted the No. 2 recruiting class for 2014 according to Rivals with 26 commitments, and still has room to go after more. Jones said Monday at the Battle at Bristol announcement that the program is looking at playing more neutral site games in the future that would be in pristine areas for recruiting.
In the Vols last outing they received plenty of national attention in their overtime loss against Georgia. Between the close encounter with the then No. 6 Bulldogs, and the debut of the smokey gray uniforms, they seemed to be the talk of the country for a week. Their close loss was also selected as the ESPN game of the week, and was aired daily on ESPNU throughout the week leading up to kickoff of week seven matchups.
After the loss Jones picked up two more commitments for the 2014 class with the commitment of four-star offensive lineman Dontavius Blair, and four-star defensive end Derek Barnett.
Keeping with the national exposure theme, with six games left the Vols are three victories away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 during former head coach Derek Dooley’s first season. They lost that game to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl. If Jones is able to lead his squad to four wins in the final six games he will give the program its first winning season since 2009, and only second winning season since 2008.
In order to pick up those key victories, though, the Volunteers will have to do so by defeating at least one ranked opponent as the rankings stand now. In the next four games Tennessee will face-off against No. 11 South Carolina, No. 1 Alabama, No. 14 Missouri, and No. 24 Auburn. If those four teams remain ranked, Tennessee will end the season having played seven ranked opponents in the 2013 campaign.
While playing so many ranked opponents can leave you with a dismal record, especially when you’re rebuilding a program, it also gives you plenty of national exposure to recruits around the country, which in turn will do nothing but help you in rebuilding.