How bad was Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina?
Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press considers it the worst defeat of Butch Jones’ tenure with the Volunteers.
The result Saturday was surprising on a number of levels. First, the Gamecocks hadn’t shown much of a pulse this season in stumbling to a 3-4 record heading into their matchup with the Volunteers. They had scored more than 20 points in a single game just once, and that instance came against weak Massachusetts on Oct. 22 during a 34-28 victory.
The timing of Tennessee’s loss at Williams-Brice Stadium was stunning as well. The Volunteers should have been rested after enjoying a bye week. Yes, going through the grind of playing Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks took its toll. But a week off should have been enough for Tennessee to survive a road contest against a mediocre opponent.
Instead, the Volunteers fell to 5-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. They’re two games behind Florida for the SEC East lead.
As Wiedmer writes, Tennessee’s season has a much different feel after the South Carolina disaster:
“[I]t all seems a bit stale and suspect and forgettable, this once promising season now headed for a return to the Outback, or possibly the Citrus Bowl at best, reinvigorating the classic Steve Spurrier line that you can’t spell C-I-T-R-U-S without a U and a T. It feels like the worst loss of Jones’ four seasons on the job.”
That line about this latest defeat being Jones’ worst during his time in Knoxville is bold. Still, you can make the case.
Losses to Texas A&M and Alabama can be excused. But few expected the Gamecocks to give the Volunteers trouble. Tennessee had too much talent and too much to play for — a possible SEC East title — to produce a subpar effort Saturday.
It will be interesting to see where the Volunteers go from here.