It has been stated several times since the first of the month that Tennessee had a 0.9% chance of escaping a win versus the Gamecocks when they trailed by 14 with around two minutes to play. Unless you happened to stumble upon this story after hiding out underneath a rock for the last couple of weeks, you already know that Tennessee did the improbable.
A win like that builds confidence, something the Vols have lacked since losing to Florida back in early October. The coaches said they enjoyed the win until they boarded the plane home but for the players, the celebrating didn’t exactly end at the terminal. Which is why having an off-week this past Saturday was so crucial.
“The bye week came right at the right time,” defensive end Jordan Williams said. “We had that whole time to celebrate the win.”
Yet, does the first road win ever for many of the players suiting up in orange and white this season create any overconfidence? Especially since they will be heading into a game where Tennessee will be favored for the first time since the October 9th matchup with the Gators.
“No, no, no. They (Kentucky) play really hard on offense,” defensive end Jordan Williams said. “We respect every opponent and we have to prepare well this week."
The confidence was not just instilled in the players after the win over Spurrier’s Gamecocks, the fans have now been rejuvenated and expect Tennessee to tack on at least the two wins to make them bowl eligible. With that could come some added pressure although starting defensive back Cam Sutton doesn’t believe so.
“I don’t think there is any added pressure,” the sophomore said. “I just think coming off of a bye week we have a better edge about ourself."
There is a possibility Tennessee will be favored in the remaining three games. That could depend on what Missouri does against Texas A&M and what the Vols do against Kentucky. One thing we already know is, Tennessee is favored by at least a touchdown for the first time against an FBS opponent since their game with Arkansas State on September 5th. Defensive lineman Danny O’Brien says they will not let that get to their heads.
“We don’t really listen to the media and who they pick to win,” O’Brien said. “We just go in there watch some film and go work hard out in practice.”
The redshirt sophomore also said that, despite the youth this team has, they have enough maturity to put the last game behind them and focus on the future.
The week-by-week grind of the SEC demands that kind of attention to every opponent. Overlooking any team in this conference can lead to losses that ruin seasons.
Alabama may have thought they had an easy win when they played Arkansas but they were lucky to escape. Auburn didn’t expect a home game against unranked Texas A&M to end like it did and Georgia saw a struggling Florida come between the edges and deliver a smackdown on the Bulldogs. That is the way of life in the SEC. Even when playing a team that has suffered four straight not-so-pretty losses, Tennessee can not overlook them.
“We’re playing in our own backyard,” Sutton said. “No better place to play than at home. We’re going to play for each other, play for this program, play for our fans and hope to come out with a win."
It’s easy as a fan to see this team having a really possibility of winning out but coach Butch Jones and his staff continue to tell their players “one game at a time” and from the sounds of it, they have bought in.
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