Clearly, the Big Orange has fallen from its lofty perch. Head coach Phillip Fulmer had some interesting comments when asked earlier this week to explain the downward trend.
"We've had the target on us because we did have the success," he said. "We competed for the (SEC) championship in '01 and we competed for the championship in '04. A lot depends on injuries and scheduling. People don't want to listen to this but the 85-scholarship limit makes it where everybody has a chance to be pretty darned good."
In spite of the scholarship limit, Tennessee has fielded good defenses most of the past 5½ years. The problem has been the Vols' inability to consistently field productive offenses. That shortcoming is particularly noticeable this year.
"We need a hero on offense. Or two. Or three," Fulmer said. "Arian Foster is emerging as one of those guys. Now we need a couple of other guys to come through for us.
"We haven't had anything like that for us on offense, which is very surprising. But most of that – in the receiver corps, at least – is due to some injuries."