By Brian Rice
Seven games in Neyland Stadium, the return of an October tradition and the long-awaited Battle at Bristol, are all a part of the 2016 Tennessee football schedule.
Just as the 2015 schedule was, the 2016 slate features 12 games spread over 13 weeks, with the open date coming on Oct. 22, giving the Volunteers a break following seven consecutive games to start the season.
Nine of the Volunteers’ 12 games will be played inside the state of Tennessee. UT will play seven home games, including SEC foes Florida, Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri, a trip to Vanderbilt and the Battle at Bristol, which will pit the Vols and Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Tennessee opens the season at Neyland Stadium for the third time in the last four seasons when it plays host to Appalachian State on Sept. 3 in the first meeting between the two schools. The Mountaineers, who won three-consecutive NCAA FCS national championships from 2005-2007 moved up to FBS beginning with the 2014 season.
A week later, Tennessee will face Virginia Tech at Bristol in front of what is expected to be the largest crowd in football history. The Battle at Bristol on Sept. 10 will be contested in front of over 150,000 fans at the track. The Volunteers last faced the Hokies in the regular season in 1937, a 27-0 UT victory in Knoxville. The teams have met twice in postseason games since, a 45-23 Tennessee win in the Gator Bowl following the 1994 season and a 37-14 VT triumph in the 2009 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Tennessee returns to Neyland Stadium for a two-game home stand that begins with a Sept. 17 date with Ohio. The game will be the second between the Vols and Bobcats after a 34-23 UT win in 2009.
The second half of the home stand will kick off Southeastern Conference play with the Florida Gators on Sept. 24. UT has faced the Gators to start the conference schedule 13 of the last 14 years, with 2014 the lone exception in that stretch.
The first road game comes at Georgia on Oct. 1. The Vols hold a 22-21-2 edge in the series between the border rivals, but will be looking to earn their first victory in Athens since 2006.
UT stays on the road a week later with the program’s first-ever trip to College Station, Texas to face Texas A&M on Oct. 8. Not only will the game be the first for Tennessee at A&M, it will also be the first regular-season meeting between the schools. The Volunteers are 2-0 all-time against the Aggies, with both previous meetings coming in bowl games. UT scored a 3-0 win in the Gator Bowl in 1957 and a 38-7 victory in the Cotton Bowl following the 2004 season. That Cotton Bowl game on Jan.1, 2005 was also the last time Tennessee played a game in the state of Texas.
The Tennessee-Alabama rivalry returns to its traditional Third Saturday in October in 2016 with an Oct. 15 date in Neyland Stadium. The 99th meeting between the two teams will mark the first time since 2012 that the rivalry has been played on its traditional date.
Following an off week on Oct. 22, the Volunteers will travel to Columbia, South Carolina to face the Gamecocks on Oct. 29. The last time UT played at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Vols rallied from down 42-28 with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter to post a 45-42 victory in overtime.
Tennessee begins a three-game November stretch at home on Nov. 5 with the first game against Tennessee Tech since 1951. The Vols and Golden Eagles played each year from 1947-51, with UT winning all five contests by a combined score of 242-20.
Nov. 12 will see the Tennessee-Kentucky rivalry return to its customary November slot after being played in October in 2015. All but five games in the series, 1893, 1908, 1909, the first of two games in 1944 and the 2015 meeting have been played in November.
The Volunteers will host senior day with the final home game of the season against Missouri on Nov. 19 before closing the season with their ninth game inside the state of Tennessee in Nashville against Vanderbilt on Nov. 26.
The 25th Southeastern Conference Championship Game will be held on Dec. 3. It will be the final SEC Championship to be played at the Georgia Dome before the event moves across the street to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017.
Information regarding game times and television broadcast assignments will typically released two weeks before each game.
2016 Tennessee Football Schedule
- Sept. 3 vs. APPALACHIAN STATE
- Sept. 10 vs. Virginia Tech (Battle at Bristol)
- Sept. 17 vs. OHIO
- Sept. 24 vs. FLORIDA*
- Oct. 1 at Georgia*
- Oct. 8 at Texas A&M*
- Oct. 15 vs. ALABAMA*
- Oct. 29 at South Carolina*
- Nov. 5 vs. TENNESSEE TECH
- Nov. 12 vs. KENTUCKY*
- Nov. 19 vs. MISSOURI*
- Nov. 26 at Vanderbilt*
- Home Games at Neyland Stadium in BOLD
* – SEC Games