The trend of SEC schools opening up their seasons in neutral site, NFL stadiums continues. According to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy -- one of the best in the business -- Tennessee will open its 2018 season against West Virginia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Last week it was announced that Alabama and Southern California would open the 2017 season against one another in Arlington, Texas. This season, Alabama (versus West Virginia) and Ole Miss (against Boise State) will play their openers in Atlanta. LSU will face Wisconsin in Houston.
Tennessee and West Virginia have never met in football. The Volunteers -- like most of the SEC big boys -- typically schedule one big non-conference game per year. In recent years that's meant trips to UCLA, Oregon and, this year, Oklahoma. Games like that have played a role in UT's inability to regain its own "SEC big boy" status. Several 5-7 seasons might've resulted in 6-6 bowl trips if not for the Vols penchant to schedule up.
Tennessee will host Oklahoma in 2015 and then open the 2016 season against Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway. That game is expected to shatter the NCAA's single-game attendance record.
As a sidenote, Charlotte is fast becoming much more a part of the SEC landscape these days. The SEC Network will be based there. The league will now send a participant to the Belk Bowl each season. In the past few months Belk itself has become a corporate partner of the SEC. And the UT/WVU matchup will follow next season's South Carolina/North Carolina opener in the Queen City.
Conspiracy theorists might take note of the SEC's burgeoning presence in the Tar Heel State and wonder about the league's long-term plans. Good thing we're not conspiracy theorists.