When the Tennessee Vols traveled to Athens in late September to take on the Georgia Bulldogs, there weren’t a lot of folks that gave UT a chance to cover the 32 point spread.

The Volunteers ended up losing by 26 points, but the game was closer than the final score indicated. As a result, the general consensus was that Tennessee made some progress after their disastrous loss to the Florida Gators earlier in September.

It’s hard to call a loss “successful”, but the fact that UT was able to hold their own (for the most part) against a potential playoff team was nearly as good as a win.

Success, however, won’t be measured the same for the Vols on Saturday against the Auburn Tigers.

Hanging with Georgia was progress. Simply hanging with Auburn won’t be progress.

The Vols are capable of beating the Tigers on Saturday. Auburn, who dropped to No. 21 in the AP rankings after their loss to Mississippi State, isn’t the SEC West giant we thought they were before the season started.

And before you call me crazy, I’m not the only one that believes Tennessee is capable of beating the Tigers.

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, speaking at the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday, called the game “winnable” for the Volunteers.

Now, I’m not saying I expect Tennessee to beat Auburn. I’d be surprised if that ends up being the case. I’m just saying there will be no moral victories on Saturday. The next step for the Vols to take, at this point, is to win a conference game. Just hanging in the game isn’t good enough to be deemed “progress” anymore.

Does that mean I think the Vols are taking a step back if they lose to the Tigers?

Absolutely not. I’m just saying they aren’t taking a step forward if they lose.

Look, each time two teams play, there’s a winner and a loser. There has to be (thank goodness college football doesn’t have the same terrible overtime rules as the NFL). Just because one team loses doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad team or they took a step back. It just means the other team made more plays that day. It happens.

Rebuilding Tennessee football is going to be a long process. And there are going to be plenty of ups-and-downs along the way.

We’ve seen plenty of the downs in the last 14 months. It’s time to see some ups.

Is it going to be a while before the ups consistently outnumber the downs?

Of course.

However, the ups have to start at some point. It might as well be now.

Featured image via Times Free Press 

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