Second worst-case scenario:
6-7 or 7-6
Bowl loss, one game from .500
In this case, Tennessee football would be meeting the bare minimum to stay afloat Jeremy Pruitt’s second season. This is basically the focus of the Vols this year, getting to a bowl game, as nobody is talking about anything else.
However, this would involved UT going 6-6 or 7-5 but losing their bowl game. To get to 6-6, they would have to win all four non-conference games and then go 2-2 against the Kentucky Wildcats on the road and the Vanderbilt Commodores, South Carolina Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs at home.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s a real possibility. And it may even be the most likely one given the state of the program right now. But doing it would still mean either beating both Kentucky and Mississippi State or breaking a streak against Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Their best chance to six wins, is to break the losing streaks to both schools.
There’s a possible scenario in which the Vols lose to the BYU Cougars but then regroup to win three of those games en route to 6-6, or maybe even four en route to 7-5 as they develop, but that’s highly unlikely. If BYU beats UT, then this season is over from the start.
Still, with three of those four toss-up SEC games at home, the Vols have a very legitimate shot at not just 6-6 but 7-5. So in this scenario they would just reach bowl eligibility. But losing their bowl game would hurt, which is why this is just barely staying afloat.