The four-game stretch in the middle of the season won’t be easy, but there are winnable games on Tennessee’s football schedule according to Phil Steele. Maybe as many as eight of them.

Steele, joining WNML’s Josh Ward on his Rocky Talk Podcast this week, went down the Vols’ 2018 schedule while providing his insight.

“When I break down the schedule, naturally I have them as an underdog against West Virginia and Will Grier in the opener,” Steele said of the Sept. 1 season opener at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., “but only by about a touchdown."

Two easy wins should follow at Neyland Stadium, against ETSU in the home opener on Sept. 8 and UTEP, which went winless last season, on Sept. 15. Then comes the annual tone-setter for Tennessee’s football season: The Sept. 22 meeting with the rival Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium.

“The Florida game," Steele said, "is once again another one (as) an underdog by less than a touchdown."

Then comes the aforementioned four-game stretch: at Georgia (Sept. 29), at Auburn after a bye week (Oct. 13), home against Alabama (Oct. 20) and at South Carolina (Oct. 27).

“They only have four games this year that I would put in the ‘pretty tough’ category, all happen to be in back-to-back-to-back weeks,” Steele said of the run through late September into October.

“At Georgia, at Auburn — that’s in Jordan-Hare (Stadium), where they’ve knocked off a couple No. 1 teams — Alabama at home and at South Carolina. And South Carolina gets the benefit of facing Tennessee, which has just played Auburn and Alabama and South Carolina is fresh off a bye.”

Steele said in those four games he has the Vols as double-digit underdogs, but the schedule isn’t all doom and gloom.

“I think the rest of the schedule,” Steele continued, “if you want to put your orange glasses on and go absolutely best-case scenario, I think it would be 8-4 during the season.

“I think a good-case scenario would be getting back to a bowl game.”

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After South Carolina should be another win, facing Charlotte at Neyland Stadium on Nov. 3, starting a final month of the season that’s full of swing games.

Kentucky visits Knoxville on Nov. 10, after taking down the Vols last season in Lexington. Missouri does the same on Nov. 17. Tennessee travels to Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Nov. 24 looking to snap a two-year losing streak against the Commodores.

“The Missouri game at home is one of those toss-up games,” Steele said. “The Vanderbilt game on the road is a toss-up game. They need to bag some of those toss-up games.”