Cause for optimism

Tennessee's outlook is a lot brighter than it was a week ago.

Besides seeing light at the end of the tunnel in a 34-3 drubbing of Mississippi State on Saturday night, the Vols saw their remaining opponents look considerably less than stellar over the weekend.

Despite a No. 2 national ranking, Alabama struggled mightily with a so-so Ole Miss team. South Carolina lost at home to an LSU squad coming off a 30-point loss at Florida. Vanderbilt suffered its second setback in succession and Kentucky had to rally frantically to nip a pitiful Arkansas team. Wyoming, which has lost four games in a row, had an open date.

This doesn't mean the 3-4 Vols will win out, of course, but it does suggest the hill isn't nearly as steep as it appeared to be just one week ago.

Here's a complete look at UT's remaining opponents:

ALABAMA (OCT. 25): The Tide (7-0, 4-0) got a season-high 219 passing yards from John Parker Wilson (16 of 25) but had to hold on for dear life to subdue Ole Miss 24-20. Bama rolled to a 24-3 halftime bulge but was outscored 17-0 after the break.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NOV. 1): Redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia, making his first career start, completed 14 of 26 passes for 215 yards but lost a fumble and an interception as the Gamecocks (5-3, 2-3) suffered a 24-17 loss to visiting LSU. Garcia was sacked six times and his ground game produced just 39 yards on 31 rushes.

WYOMING (NOV. 8): The Cowboys (2-5) enjoyed an open date. They will try to snap a four-game losing streak this Saturday against 14th-ranked Texas Christian.

VANDERBILT (NOV. 22): Mackenzi Adams completed 16 of 32 passes for 131 yards but converted just 1 of 8 times on third down as the Commodores (5-2, 3-2) fell 24-14 at Georgia. The outcome was in doubt until Georgia's Blair Walsh booted a 39-yard field goal with 17 seconds left, sealing Vandy' second setback in a row after a 5-0 start.

KENTUCKY (NOV. 29: The Wildcats (5-2, 1-2) had to score two touchdowns in the final 4:15 to nip Arkansas 21-20 at Lexington. Mike Hartline, who completed 17 of 32 passes for 239 yards, hit Randall Cobb with TD tosses of 32 and 21 yards in the closing minutes to turn a 20-7 deficit into a one-point victory.

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