The Vols have fallen to No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Florida, No. 8 South Carolina and No. 15 Mississippi State, but head coach Derek Dooley refuses to make excuses for the team's play in 2012.
"It is hard because there is no excuse for the way we are playing," Dooley said Monday. "We should be playing better than we are."
Now the question becomes, will the Vols fold in November the way they did in 2011, falling to Kentucky for the first time in 26 years and missing the bowl season with a 5-7 mark. What makes this team different?
"It really doesn't matter what I have seen in the first eight (games)," Dooley said. "I have seen a totally different team. To watch the things that have hit us in the Georgia game, in the Mississippi State game and in this game and see us claw and scratch and have a chance to win on the last drive — we didn't have a team like that last year, at all.
"None of that matters if we can't do it the last four. It is pointless to say we are different team because we have to go out and prove it."
Almost every player that exited Haslam Field to speak to a swarming crowd of media repeated the company line: "Everyone remembers what you do in November."
"I think that everybody has a really good mental approach right now," said offensive lineman Antonio Richardson. "Everybody knows what we have to do. Like I have been telling you guys it is week by week. We have to do what we have to do to hone in and win these four games in November."
Senior offensive lineman Dallas Thomas cites leadership as a reason Tennessee won't wave the white flag early this season, which would be a stark contrast to last.
"The leadership is way different than last year," Thomas said. "The guys are more vocal and the younger guys are really starting to follow us. Guys aren't giving up like they did last year."
However, while the focus may be on a undefeated effort in the last month of the season, it is important to remember that feat is only accomplished one game at a time.
"The legacy of this team and the character of this team is going to be defined by how we compete these last four games, but it is important to know that it is not just four games because we can't go 4-0 without going 1-0," Dooley said. "I told the players I don't even want to talk about going 4-0. We have to go 1-0.
"We are playing a team that is averaging 460 yards a game. We are playing a team that lost to Mississippi State by six points and they put up over 500 yards of offense on them. If we think we are going to roll the ball out there and get a W we are really fooling ourselves."
And the Trojans are no joke. They already gave the Bulldogs one heck of a scare in Starkville, Miss., and they are rolling into Knoxville with something to prove after that close 24-30 loss in September.
"There is a saying going around that everyone remembers what you do in November," linebacker Herman Lathers said. "We just want to win these games in November and give ourselves a chance. We are approaching it as a new season and in order for it to be a new season you have to start off 1-0 — we are taking Troy as our first victim."
Watch as Dooley and select players spoke to the media following Monday's practice:
Antonio "Tiny" Richardson