In nine days, Tennessee could be in the driver's seat in the SEC East.
Welcome back to the idea that this season matters.
Here's the path. It's not even the only one, just the quickest one.
- October 4: Alabama beats Georgia (3:30 CBS) The first piece may look like only insurance from here, but with the Vols already a game down in the loss column, Tennessee could use Georgia dropping an additional game besides the one we'll get to in a couple bullet points. And if you're looking for Georgia to drop an additional game, this one is by far the most likely. Coming into this season it looked like the Vols and Dawgs would both have stern tests from the SEC West, but with both Auburn and Arkansas struggling the Tide are the only common thread. Bama beating Georgia means the Vols could survive a loss to Alabama later this month and stay in the driver's seat if the rest of this holds form.
- October 4: Ole Miss beats Florida (7:00 ESPN) It's in The Swamp, but the Rebels are a touchdown favorite and have looked like one of the best teams in college football, one sleepwalking session removed against Vanderbilt. If we thought Tennessee had a talent advantage on these Gators, the Rebels are significantly better.
- October 4: Tennessee beats Arkansas (7:00 ESPN2) There has been discussion this week on what exactly a win on Saturday would do for this team, this season, or Butch Jones. In part beating Arkansas would be an accomplishment in the sense of where Tennessee has been; the Vols haven't beaten an SEC team that wasn't Kentucky, South Carolina, or Vanderbilt since taking down Ole Miss in 2010. But more than that, this game is a bridge to where the Vols want to go. Lose, and we get to spend another week talking about Butch Jones and Mike DeBord. Win, and we get to talk about the SEC East. Which one would you prefer?
- October 11: Tennessee beats Georgia (3:30 CBS) Perhaps the biggest ask on the list, but a considerably smaller ask than it's been against Georgia the last three years when the Vols have gone to the wire. We'll cross this bridge when we come to it.
- October 11: Missouri beats Florida (7:30 SEC Network) In Columbia. You don't think Florida will lose to Missouri? Fine. How about at LSU the next week? Or the Cocktail Party two weeks later? Like I said, this is just the quickest way to get back in front.