This article originally appeared on The Sports Quotient
Tennessee has had a rough going so far this season. If you’ve been paying any attention to college football this year, you would know that is an understatement.
The Volunteers (3-4, 1-3 SEC) played a close one against No. 8 Alabama in Tuscaloosa last week, falling 19-14 after entering the 4th quarter with the lead. It was the latest in a series of heartbreaking losses for the Vols this year.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that has suffered more demoralizing defeats. Tennessee has lost all four of their games by a combined total of 17 points.
However, it would be even harder to find a better team with a losing record. Tennessee may be 3-4, but they are the best 3-4 team in the nation.
The Vols should not lose another game this season.
Here are three reasons why:
Up to this point, Tennessee has had quite a tough schedule. They opened their season with a win against a veteran Bowling Green squad, a team that is now 6-2 with their only other loss coming to No. 16 Memphis.
With an out-of-conference game against No. 14 Oklahoma, an away game against No. 11 Florida, and last week’s game against No. 7 Alabama, it is not hard to see that Tennessee’s first half of the season was filled with quality opponents.
As the Vols move into the second half of their schedule, the challenge looks to be much more manageable:
|Oct. 31||@ Kentucky|
|Nov. 7||vs. South Carolina|
|Nov. 14||vs. North Texas|
|Nov. 21||@ Missouri|
|Nov. 28||vs. Vanderbilt|
Tennessee has beaten Kentucky 29 times in the last 30 years. Butch Jones is 2-0 against the Gamecocks, and Steve Spurrier is no longer coaching for them. Tennessee is 0-3 against Missouri since they joined the SEC, but the Tigers lost to Vanderbilt last week and were subsequently ranked dead last in ESPN’s SEC power rankings.
Tennessee has been starting one of the youngest teams in the SEC this year. The close losses the Vols have suffered starts to make sense when you look at the youth of the team.
Being thrust into meaningful roles has been a baptism by fire of sorts for many young Vols. But these snaps have given Tennessee’s underclassmen valuable experience against quality opponents.
After losing another game they could have won, Tennessee should look to take out their frustrations on their remaining opponents.
The improvement is there
For Tennessee players and fans alike, the phrase “moral victory” is one they are tired of hearing. But after last week’s game in Tuscaloosa, the Vols’ performance couldn’t be more accurately described.
The Vols have lost to Alabama for nine straight years now, and most of the losses they have suffered have not been close. But last week, the Vols were competing on Alabama’s level for the first time in a long time. Tennessee lead to open the 4th quarter, a feat they have not accomplished since 2006.
Tennessee’s home upset against a ranked Georgia team is further proof of their improvement throughout the course of the season.
The Vols are almost there, they just haven’t quite turned the corner yet.
An 8-4 finish for the Vols might not meet the lofty expectations that were set by fans before the season began. But at this point, it’s the best Tennessee can do.
With such a finish, the Vols would find themselves in a solid bowl game with a chance to finish 9-4. After last season’s 7-5 record, finishing 9-4 is undeniable improvement.