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Among the things Butch Jones didn't inherit from his predecessors at Tennessee:

A quarterback.

Team speed.

A recruiting network.

Among the things Butch Jones did inherit from his predecessors at Tennessee:

A killer schedule.

The latter is the gift that keeps on giving.

To his credit, Jones has not attempted to buy his way out of any of the non-conference doozies that the Vols booked before his arrival. After all the buyouts that have been paid to coaches at UT over the years, he reckoned that paying a scheduled opponent to cancel a game was not in the program's best interest.

Some considered this an error in judgment. With so much rebuilding to be done, why expose your team to the likelihood of a blowout?

Jones didn't blink. He dutifully took his Vols to Oregon last season and lost 59-14 to a team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time. He later said the matchup with the Ducks served a purpose since it confirmed his suspicion that UT had a long way to go in terms of recruiting overall team speed.

There's more where that came from. On Sept. 13, he'll load up his team again and participate in a mismatch at Oklahoma, which is a consensus top-five pick in the preseason. It won't be pretty.

Have schedule, will travel.

"We play the best of the best," Jones said recently. "You look at this year's scheduling, we have Oklahoma at Oklahoma, and nine out of our 12 opponents on our overall schedule are bowl teams."

The Sooners return the favor next season with a visit to Knoxville. By then, maybe Jones won't be carrying a butter knife into a sword fight.

His willingness to play top-tier opponents regardless of a roster disparity contrasts with the approach UT took in regard to a scheduled home-and-home series with North Carolina a few years back. Vols officials initiated a move to cancel the series, which was scheduled to begin in 2011. It cost UT $750,000.

Although then-Vols athletics director Mike Hamilton handled the exit strategy, it was clear that Derek Dooley, who was UT's coach at the time, wanted nothing to do with the Tar Heels.

"Obviously, if I was in big disagreement with what he wanted to do, I would express that," Dooley said at the time. "He would probably respect it. I defer to him unless I adamantly oppose."

Dooley didn't adamantly oppose ducking North Carolina. He embraced it.

Buffalo was the fill-in in 2011 and Akron played in Knoxville the following year. Those accounted for two of the 21 games Dooley won in four seasons at UT.

Ironically, the Vols and North Carolina played in the 2010 Music City Bowl, with the Tar Heels winning 30-27 in overtime. It was the only bowl game on Dooley's watch.

To Jones, the more the merrier where tough non-conference games are concerned. He was the spark behind staging the landmark game against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. On Tuesday, UT announced it will play a neutral-site game in 2018 in Charlotte against West Virginia.

Neutral-site games are becoming the rage, especially for SEC teams. Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss open the season with such games this year. Alabama will open 2015 and '16 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, against first Wisconsin, then Southern Cal.

Given the importance of establishing recruiting ties in talent-rich Texas, I wouldn't be surprised for Jones to explore playing a non-conference game in either Arlington or Houston by the end of the decade.

UT long has been a program that scheduled high-profile non-conference games, dating back to a game at UCLA in 1967, where the Vols lost to a team quarterbacked by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban. UT faced Penn State in 1971 and '72. The Vols scheduled Southern Cal home and away in 1980-81.

UT played Notre Dame four times between 1999 and 2005 and went home-and-home with Miami in 2002-03.

Jones' attitude about scheduling carries over to SEC games. While there was some movement to change traditional cross-division opponents, Jones voiced his desire to maintain the longstanding series with Alabama.

Never mind that UT has lost seven straight to the Crimson Tide by an average of 24.9 points.

"Now we have to get back to making these rivalry games relevant again," Jones said. "It's in our DNA at the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama. They're very special to us. I think that's what makes up the pageantry of college football."

With the noteworthy exception of a 23-21 upset of South Carolina last season, the Vols have yet to prove they can play a good game under Jones.

But at least he is willing to schedule a good game.

David Climer's columns appear on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday and Monday. Reach him at 615-259-8020 and on Twitter @DavidClimer.

VOLS SCHEDULE

100-54: Combined record of Vols' opponents' records last season

9 of 12: How many opponents played in bowl games last season

7 of 9: How many of those opponents won bowl games last season

THE DATES

Aug. 31 vs. Utah State (9-5 last season, won Poinsettia Bowl)

Sept. 6 vs. Arkansas State (8-4, won GoDaddy.com Bowl)

Sept. 13 at Oklahoma (11-2, won Sugar Bowl)

Sept. 27 at Georgia (8-5, lost to Gator Bowl)

Oct. 4 vs. Florida (4-8)

Oct. 11 vs. Chattanooga (8-4)

Oct. 18 at Ole Miss (8-5, won Music City Bowl)

Oct. 25 vs. Alabama (10-2, lost to Sugar Bowl)

Nov. 1 at South Carolina (11-2, won Capital One Bowl)

Nov. 15 vs. Kentucky (2-10)

Nov. 22 vs. Missouri (12-2, won Cotton Bowl)

Nov. 29 vs. Vanderbilt (9-4, won BBVA Compass Bowl)

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