By Steve Williams

Start the countdown. It’s 10 Saturdays until the Tennessee football opener.

Television bigwigs last week put out the starting times for the season’s first three games. They pay no attention to such things as heat or cold when making these decisions. Of course, they pay big bucks to the universities’ athletic football programs for that right.

Fans just have to tough it out, if they choose to watch the games in person.

More and more fans each year, however, choose to watch from the comforts of home or at their favorite sports bar.

You might want to begin hydrating now, if you plan to be in the stands. UT’s first kickoff will be at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Sept. 5. That’s usually the hottest part of the day.

The Vols will play Bowling Green in the opener at LP Field in Nashville. The SEC Network will bring you the action.

The real home opener will be the following week, Sept. 12, against the Oklahoma Sooners. It will start at 6 p.m. ESPN will have the telecast. One local radio sports show host actually called it a “night game.” Yep, it might be dark when it’s over.

It’ll be a little better in Week 3, the conditions that is, not the opposition. West Carolina visits Neyland Stadium for a 7 o’clock start on ESPN U.

Although starting times have yet to be announced for other games – those TV honchos want to wait and see who’s winning and who’s not before putting teams in prime time slots – let’s take a look at the rest of UT’s schedule.

By the way, when future starting times are announced, if your favorite team is kicking off at noon or starting at 9 in the evening, that’s a sign things aren’t going so good.

The Vols play in the Swamp on Sept. 26. How many in a row has Tennessee lost to Florida? Tennessee should have won last year and, yes, the year before. Really.

A big and strong Arkansas team will romp into Knoxville on Oct. 3.

Will the SEC East title be on the line when the Vols host Georgia on Oct. 10?

Tennessee has an open date on Oct. 17. Whatever happened to that great traditional Southern classic on the Third Saturday in October?

Oh here it is . . . the Vols will play Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 24.

Here’s something else different. Tennessee plays at Kentucky on Oct. 31. Snow on Halloween?

Our buddy Steve Spurrier brings the Gamecocks to Knoxville on Nov. 7. Butch Jones is 2-0 against The Visor.

North Texas, one would think, would be an easy touch for the Homecoming game on Nov. 14. That game will probably be on pay-per-view. Let’s get this starting time right . . . 1 o’clock in the afternoon, please.

Will the Vols still be in the mix and the hunt for the SEC East title when they play at Missouri on Nov. 21? I’m hoping for a 3:30 kickoff on ESPN.

Finally, the regular season will end on Nov. 28 with Vanderbilt in town. If those TV guys schedule this game to start at 9, it probably will have been a terribly long season.