Rough road ahead

Tennessee is off to a 1-3 start, and the road doesn't get any easier in the weeks to come. In fact, the schedule appears fraught with peril.

Alabama (5-0) looked like a juggernaut in wiping out homestanding Georgia 41-30 in Athens. The third-ranked Bulldogs (4-1) have an open date during which to regroup and recuperate, however, before hosting Tennessee in two weeks.

Mississippi State discovered a capable quarterback in a competitive loss to LSU and South Carolina appeared to do the same in a methodical defeat of UAB. Even Kentucky and Vanderbilt – two teams UT annually counts upon for late-season Ws – are 4-0 this fall and capable of beating the Big Orange.

That said, here's a look at how the Vols' remaining opponents fared last weekend:

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (OCT. 4): Since opening the season 0-2, the Huskies have beaten Indiana State 48-3 (Sept. 20) and Eastern Michigan 37-0 (Saturday). True freshman Mc'Co Brown rushed for 111 yards vs. EMU before suffering a fourth-quarter ankle injury. Quarterbacks Dan Nicholson (11 of 15, 92 yards) and DeMarcus Grady (2-2, 12 yards) combined to complete 13 of 17 passes for 104 yards.

GEORGIA (OCT. 11): The third-ranked Bulldogs (4-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) ran into a Bama buzz saw, trailing 31-0 at the half en route to a 41-30 loss to Alabama. With UGA in full-blown catch-up mode, Knowshon Moreno rushed just nine times for 34 yards and Matthew Stafford completed 24 of 42 passes for 274 yards.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (OCT. 18): Sylvester Croom benched starting QB Wesley Carroll in favor of backup Tyson Lee, and the move paid immediate dividends. Lee played every snap and completed 17 of 26 passes for 175 yards as the Bulldogs (1-4 overall, 0-2 SEC) gave No. 5 LSU a surprisingly tough test before bowing 34-24 at Baton Rouge.

ALABAMA (OCT. 25): The Tide (5-0 overall, 2-0 SEC) raced to a 31-0 halftime lead over homestanding Georgia, then coasted to a 41-30 upset win. John Parker Wilson completed 13 of 16 passes for 205 yards, with true freshman Julio Jones catching five of the balls for 94 yards.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NOV. 1): The Gamecocks (3-2 overall, 0-2 SEC) used three quarterbacks in a 26-13 defeat of UAB. Starter Chris Smelley was benched after one series. Flashy Stephen Garcia came on to complete 13 of 20 passes for 131 yards and rush for another 86 yards but was yanked after throwing a third-quarter interception. Smelley and Tommy Beecher split time the rest of the way.

WYOMING (NOV. 8): The Cowboys (2-3) fell 45-16 to Bowling Green one week after losing 44-0 to Brigham Young. Wyoming surrendered 287 passing yards and threw four interceptions of its own, pushing its season total to 10 picks. Devon Moore was a bright spot with 114 rushing yards on 15 carries.

VANDERBILT (NOV. 22): The Commodores (4-0, 2-0) had an open date.

KENTUCKY (NOV. 29): Mike Hartline completed 19 of 30 passes for 172 yards and the Wildcats (4-0, 0-0) limited Western Kentucky to 6-of-14 passing for 15 yards in a 41-3 pasting of the Hilltoppers. Derrick Locke had a 100-yard kickoff return for the Big Blue.

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