Tennessee's open date might have come two weeks too soon.
Never mind that the Vols will have had two weeks to prepare for No. 1 ranked Alabama. A team also could use an extra week to get over the Tide.
In fact, some teams could use a week off between the third and fourth quarters against Alabama, which has become the most physical team in the SEC under coach Nick Saban. Last October, UT was one of those teams.
Alabama didn't run away from the Vols. It wore them out one hit at a time in a 29-9 victory.
No wonder most UT fans abandoned Neyland Stadium before the fourth quarter. The outcome was inevitable.
Is it just as inevitable this Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium?
The talent gap would suggest so. But you could have said the same for Florida two weeks ago.
UT escaped The Swamp with a 10-point loss last month. And its competitiveness was lauded nationally as well as locally.
Alabama will present another huge challenge, and another opportunity as well.
Further into the season, the Vols already have suffered attrition, the most notable of which is middle linebacker Nick Reveiz. If you are a linebacker light against Alabama, you're kicking off at a disadvantage.
Deeper teams than the Vols have wilted in the fourth quarter against the Tide. For example, take nationally ranked Virginia Tech.
Alabama outgained the Hokies 165-35 in the fourth quarter en route to a 34-24 victory.
For another example, take Alabama's final scoring drive in a 20-6 victory over South Carolina on Saturday night. Running back Mark Ingram carried six consecutive times for 68 yards against a defense that hadn't given up an offensive touchdown to Alabama for three and a half quarters.
The Tide doesn't usually wait until the fourth quarter to exert its will. You saw that against Ole Miss, which managed all of 19 yards in the first half.
Staying close against Alabama will require a different strategy than what worked against Florida. UT's defense did a nice job of containing Florida's speed. Alabama is more about the weight room than the track.
The Tide's front seven on defense averages 272 pounds. By comparison, UT's defensive front averages 245.
Alabama's safeties are bigger than UT's linebackers. Its starting defensive ends weigh more than 290 pounds. And nose tackle Terrence Cody (354) makes both of them look skinny.
Overcoming Alabama's size wasn't UT's only challenge last season. It couldn't match Alabama's toughness, either.
No one has questioned UT's toughness under first-year head coach Lane Kiffin. This team was hardened during the offseason, and that toughness was evident during the first half of the season.
So was its effort. The Vols have lost three games but they haven't given up in any of them.
Their effort was rewarded against the Gators, who were driving for another touchdown when the Vols forced a fourth-quarter fumble. UT responded with a touchdown drive - and just like that a potential 24-point loss became a 10-point defeat.
That signified considerable progress against a rival that had beaten UT by 63 points in their previous two meetings.
The Vols also have plenty of room for improvement against the Tide, which has won the last two games by a combined 44 points.
They don't have to beat Alabama to maintain the momentum they have gained against rivals - first against Florida, then nine days ago in a 45-19 rout of Georgia. They just have to be competitive, then hope they have enough left over to beat South Carolina a week later.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.