2004 is one great slate

I've been following UT football for roughly 35 years now, and I think the 2004 home schedule is one of the best in a while.

Nevada-Las Vegas (coached by former Southern Cal head man John Robinson) is a good opening test. The home opponents also include Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Notre Dame. In addition, I suspect Kentucky will be improved now that Rich Brooks has had a full year to implement his system and recruit some players who fit his schemes.

The only '04 visitor that doesn't offer much intrigue is Louisiana Tech, which was a late addition to the schedule due to the postponement of the road game at Memphis.

The strongest home schedule UT has played since I've been following the Vols had to be 1980, when the visitors to Neyland Stadium included No. 16 Georgia, No. 5 Southern Cal, No. 1 Alabama and No. 12 Pittsburgh. Georgia went on to win the national title that year, with Pitt No. 2, Bama No. 6 and USC No. 12. Vol fans got to see some of the finest football teams in America that year. Alas, UT wasn't among them. The Vols limped home 5-6 that season against a murderous schedule.

Another tough slate was 1994, when the Vols hosted No. 1 Florida, No. 17 Washington State and No. 10 Alabama. The 2002 schedule was a toughie, as well, featuring No. 10 Florida, No. 19 Alabama and No. 1 Miami.

Conversely, I think the 2003 home schedule was among the worst in recent memory. Georgia was a top-notch team, but Fresno State and Marshall were only so-so. South Carolina was down, while Duke, Mississippi State and Vandy were awful.

Here's another look at the 2004 schedule, in case you've forgotten it:

Sept. 4 - UNLV
Sept. 18 - Florida
Sept. 25 - Louisiana Tech
Oct. 2 - Auburn
Oct. 9 - at Georgia
Oct. 16 - at Mississippi
Oct. 23 - Alabama
Oct. 30 - at South Carolina
Nov. 6 - Notre Dame
Nov. 20 - at Vanderbilt
Nov. 27 - Kentucky
Dec. 4 - SEC Championship Game (Atlanta, Ga.)


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