Tennessee began its 50-day countdown Friday to the 2007 football season opener.
The Vols Sept. 1 visit to California -- likely the day's only matchup of nationally-ranked opponents -- kicks off another sparkling slate of games that includes seven home contests and visits from Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas.
Georgia and South Carolina have joined Tennessee and Florida as preseason picks to win the SEC's wide open Eastern Division, while Arkansas is coming off a Western Division title last year and returns Heisman Trophy hopeful Darren McFadden. The Vols also host Conference USA power Southern Mississippi in the Sept. 8 home opener, set for 7 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.
UT three times has begun seasons in the Golden State -- 1967 against UCLA in Los Angeles, 1990 against Colorado in the Anaheim Pigskin Classic and 1994 against UCLA in Pasadena. This year's Sept. 1 matchup against Cal marks Tennessee's first visit to Berkeley and provides a renewal from the Vols' 35-18 win last year in Knoxville that kicked off a 9-4 campaign in high style.
ABC Sports is carrying the 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. Eastern) telecast.
This year's Neyland Stadium opener has the Vols hosting a Southern Miss squad for the first time since 2000, and this year's Golden Eagle edition is a preseason C-USA favorite. Tennessee has led the SEC in attendance each of the last 33 seasons and the 2007 Neyland Award winner, former Southern California and Los Angeles Rams head coach John Robinson, calls it "The greatest stadium I've ever been in."
The Vols then travel to another great venue at Florida to open Southeastern Conference play in a 3:30 p.m. CBS & WVLT, Volunteer TV kickoff. Tennessee leads the series 19-17 and the teams are 3-3 over the last six encounters.
Home games follow against Arkansas State and Georgia, sandwiched around Tennessee's lone open date. A-State is a late addition to the 2007 schedule and the 7 p.m. kickoff marks the first meeting between the teams.
UT's series with Georgia has seen the visiting team grab the upper hand. The Vols have won two of their last three in Athens while Georgia owns three straight wins in Knoxville. The Vols won four straight at Georgia during the 1990s while in the midst of an overall nine-game series winning streak.
Mississippi State is this year's SEC Western Division newcomer to the Tennessee schedule. The Vols visit Starkville on Oct. 13, one prior to the annual showdown with Alabama. UT is 10-2 against the Crimson Tide over the last 12 meetings, including a 16-13 triumph last year.
A four-game homestand follows beginning with South Carolina on Oct. 27 and running through the Vanderbilt renewal Nov. 17.
South Carolina won its first ever game in Knoxville two years ago, snapping an 0-12 sheet. Louisiana-Lafayette is this year's Homecoming foe on Nov. 3 (4 p.m.) -- the first meeting between the teams since Phillip Fulmer's debut on the sidelines as the Vols head coach in 1992. Arkansas and Vanderbilt close out the 2007 home slate, the UT-Vandy contest marking Fulmer's 100th game at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee's concludes the regular season at Kentucky on Nov. 24 looking to extend its 22-game series winning streak. The SEC Championship Game is set for Dec. 1 in Atlanta, with an afternoon kickoff (4 p.m.) for the first time since 1994, again on CBS & Volunteer TV.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information
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