"Big game" might not be descriptive enough for what's going down at Thompson-Boling tonight. By laying an egg at South Carolina over the weekend, the Vols have now found their previously surging NCAA hopes waning. Here's the scoop: UT has 4 games left and need to win two to finish at 8-8 in the SEC regular season. Two of those games are on the road, where Tennessee hasn't won a league game all year. The other two are at home, which is good, but one of those is against #3 Florida, which is bad.
So, should UT win tonight, they need to eek out one road win or shock Florida. Lose, and it's either sweep the road or win one away and shock Florida. So to call this game a "must win" is much less hyperbolic than that phrase usually is. But here's the kicker: it's a must-win for Bama, too. After a game with Auburn, the Tide closes with Ole Miss and Mississippi State, the two teams tied with Bama atop the SEC West. A sloppy finish, and the bubble could burst at the Capstone just as easily as on the Hill.
So tonight at Thompson-Boling, one team will finish the game with an above-.500 SEC record. One team gets a "resume win" for the selection committee to look at. One bubble shrinks, another swells to near its' limit. Pressure much? Yep, and that's why Bruce Pearl has told his team that "There is no margin for error" in tonight's game:
"We have to win enough games in conference play or in the SEC tournament to put the committee in position to reward us," he said. "We still have to play our way in."
It's Rocky Top Thunderdome: Two teams enter, one team leaves. Let's hope that team is wearing orange.
Leave your pre-, in-, and post-game thoughts below.