KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — What a difference just one week makes.
After inexplicably losing at South Carolina on Oct. 29, Tennessee’s SEC East hopes appeared on thin ice.
Sitting at 2-3 in conference play, the Volunteers needed to win out — home against Kentucky and Missouri before the season finale at Vanderbilt — and get some serious help to book a ticket back to Atlanta for the first time 2007.
Well, everything came up aces on Saturday.
After routing FCS patsy Tennessee Tech 55-0, the Vols watched the division move back toward them, as Florida was blown out at Arkansas 31-10 and Georgia slipped past Kentucky 27-24.
The Gators — with conference games against South Carolina and LSU — still must lose once more for Tennessee to win via division tiebreaker, but the schedule is certainly back in the Vols’ favor.
Last Monday Florida was a heavy favorite to win the SEC East.
Today, Tennessee is right back in the picture. pic.twitter.com/HmQxtJL7pW
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 7, 2016
On Monday, coach Butch Jones was asked if the latest developments would be used as motivation moving forward.
Not externally, per Jones.
“The way we’re approaching it, the way we look at it is we have three 1-game seasons,” he said.
“We’re looking to be 1-0. All we can control is what we can control. That’s our attitude. That’s our mindset. Our preparation, our toughness, our team chemistry. Everything that goes into preparing to play our best football Saturday at noon.”
For a brief period Saturday, Kentucky was the SEC East team that actually sat in the driver’s seat for a trip to Atlanta, but after watching UF lose, the Wildcats went out and lost at home to the Bulldogs.
Still, Jones is wary of UK’s recent success over the past month, as Mark Stoops’ team won three straight league games before losing Saturday.
“We’re playing a very, very talented and physical football team,” Jones said.
“We have a lot of respect for what Mark (Stoops) has built there and what he continues to build there. They’ve won three out of their last four games. … They’re a very good team with a lot of confidence. So all of our focus and energy is playing our best football and being 1-0 this week.”