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Key stretch: Tennessee

9/1/2011

The Tennessee Volunteers take their turn in our key stretch series.

Key stretch: Georgia (Oct. 8), LSU (Oct. 15), at Alabama (Oct. 22), South Carolina (oct. 29)

Breakdown: The month of October was not kind to Tennessee last season. The Vols lost all four games and limped into November with a 2-6 record. But whereas Georgia, LSU and South Carolina were all on the road last season, those three games are at home in 2011. The Vols should be fresh going into that four-game gauntlet this season. They have a bye week following their trip to Florida and then face Buffalo at home on Oct. 1 before diving into the treacherous part of the month. Tennessee has had Georgia's number in Knoxville the last two meetings, winning lopsided affairs in both 2007 and 2009. Kicking off this stretch with another win over the Bulldogs would be a huge boost of confidence for the Vols going into three straight games against teams that will start the season in the top 12 nationally.

Prediction: Progress for the Vols would be winning one game. They were o-for-October last season and lost three of the four games by 14 or more points. Depending on what Georgia does the first two weeks of the season, the Bulldogs could be ripe for the taking when they roll into Knoxville. South Carolina also hasn't had much success in Neyland Stadium. A 2-2 record would give Tennessee an excellent shot at an eight-win regular season, but 1-3 is probably more realistic.

The rundown