1. South Carolina Gamecocks
Tennessee football only had one close loss last year, and it was on the road to the South Carolina Gamecocks. The loss also came the week Trey Smith had to be held out for the rest of the season due to the return of blood clots.
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As a result, the Vols are victims of the weirdest stat ever. They are 0-7 against Will Muschamp, including three straight losses to South Carolina and four straight losses to Florida when he was there. That makes no sense.
Anyway, after a close loss last year, they get a team that went 7-6 and doesn’t figure to take too much of a leap forward at home this year. Given the fact that Jeremy Pruitt’s team figures to take a gigantic leap, and UT has lots of advantages.
South Carolina is set for Oct. 26 and follows the Alabama Crimson Tide. By that point, given our circled games and toss-ups, the Vols could either be 2-5, 3-4 or 4-3. Regardless of where they stand, though, the South Carolina game will have a huge impact on how they finish.
If they’re 2-5, beating S.C. means they are back in bowl contention. If they are 3-4, winning means they are in line still for a winning record for the season. And if they are 4-3, a victory puts nine wins and a top 25 finish in play.
Simply put, everything about this game is huge for Tennessee football right before the Vols head into November. They need to pull this out to define how they will begin to close out the season. After coming close last year, winning this will show what type of improvements they made in Pruitt’s second season. That’s why it’s their most important game.