UT slate dotted with pansies?

Tennessee's football team faces some killer road games this fall -- at Miami, at Florida, at Auburn and at Alabama -- but the Vols will get to feast on some homefield cupcakes, too.

At least, that's the message conveyed by Athlon Sports' National College Football preview, which is on newsstands now at a cost of $6.99.

In ranking all 117 college football programs, Athlon tabs Oklahoma No. 1. Miami is ranked No. 2, making it the highest ranked Vol opponent. UT foes Auburn (No. 5) and Georgia (No. 8) also grace the preseason top 10.

Florida is ranked No. 20, Alabama No. 21 and Tennesssee No. 24. Thus, according to Athlon, the Vols should be underdogs in five of their 12 games this fall.

Opening foe Fresno State checks in at a dangerous No. 35. Kentucky (58) and South Carolina (64) are rated middle-of-the-road opponents.

The Vols remaining foes are ranked among college football's bottom-feeders -- Mississippi State (73), Duke (78), Marshall (79) and Vanderbilt (80).

For what it's worth, three of Tennessee's non-conference foes from 2002 are listed among the sorriest programs in the Athlon rankings for 2003. Middle Tennessee State is No. 87, Wyoming is No. 89 and Rutgers is No. 92.

And the worst team in America this fall? Athlon's vote goes to Louisiana-Monroe, a school Tennessee routed 70-3 three years ago.


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