01 June, 2023
Josh Heupel’s Tennessee Vols will compete against anyone at any time.
Throughout his tenure as Tennessee’s head coach, Heupel has made it clear that the Vols would be prepared regardless of the schedule or time of a game.
However, there are still some clear benefits to playing games at specific times. For instance, Tennessee will benefit by playing Georgia in Knoxville at night this season, which should result in a more energetic atmosphere at Neyland.
On the other hand, Tennessee was spared a rowdy night crowd at Tiger Stadium by facing LSU at 11 AM local time in Baton Rouge last season.
It’s unfortunate for Tennessee that the scheduling won’t be as convenient in 2023. At least not during the season’s opening few games. On Wednesday, the start times for the first three games of the 2023 campaign were revealed. Furthermore, it’s hardly the ideal situation for Tennessee.
On September 2 in Nashville, the Vols will face Virginia in the first game of the year. The scheduled kickoff time for that game is 12:00 PM ET (11 AM local time in Nashville). Austin Peay will be Tennessee’s first visitor on September 9.
On September 16, UT will travel to Gainesville to take on Florida at 7:00 PM ET.
No one is anticipating a prime time slot for the Austin Peay game, so the game time isn’t a big problem.
The problem is with the other two games.
For the Vols, the game times would be reversed in an ideal scenario.
An 11 AM local kickoff would be far less optimal than a season-opening night game in Nashville. Since it’s the opening weekend of the season, there should be plenty of energy, but it won’t be quite as boisterous as a night game would be.
The Florida game’s start time is more of an issue. Tennessee must defeat the Gators on the road for the first time since 2003 if they hope to compete for a national championship in 2023, which is the program’s objective.
Despite being on the road, the Vols ought to be the favorites in that contest. Under Billy Napier, Florida is still getting its bearings. For once, Tennessee’s program is more reliable. However, it is never simple to play in the swamp at night. Additionally, the fact that this game will kick off at 7:00 PM instead of noon will make it much harder for Tennessee to win because, aside from their victory over LSU last season, they had trouble traveling and dealing with crowd noise. The Vols undoubtedly put a lot of effort into improving their crowd noise management throughout the offseason, but they will still need to do better in that regard in 2023.(Note: Playing a night game in the Swamp has the advantage of not being nearly as hot as playing at noon or 3:30 would be.)
No matter what time a game starts, Tennessee must ultimately go out and perform. However, anyone who believes that facing Florida on the road at noon rather than 7:00 PM makes no difference hasn’t followed college football closely over the years. This season, the Gators will seek retribution against the Vols, and I have no doubt that Florida supporters will rock the Swamp when Tennessee visits in September.
September 2: vs. Virginia (Nashville) 12pm EST
September 9: vs. Austin Peay (Knoxville) Time TBA
September 16: at Florida (Gainesville, Fla.) 7pm EST
September 23: vs. UTSA (Knoxville) Time TBA
September 30: vs. South Carolina (Knoxville) Time TBA
October 7: OPEN
October 14: vs. Texas A&M (Knoxville) Time TBA
October 21: at Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Time TBA
October 28: at Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.) Time TBA
November 4: UConn (Knoxville) Time TBA
November 11: at Missouri (Columbia, Mo.) Time TBA
November 18: vs. Georgia (Knoxville) Time TBA
November 25: vs. Vanderbilt (Knoxville) Time TBA