Vols Josh Dobbs leaps - RTI

The Vols’ offense was fast, efficient and near unstoppable on Saturday against Kentucky.

Yes, Tennessee (7-3, 3-3 SEC) kept its SEC East title hopes alive this week, but the 49-36 win makes Vol fans wonder “what might have been”. What could this season have been if Tennessee beat South Carolina?

If Tennessee’s offense had played like they did today, the Vols would have won that game. There’s no question about it. 599 total yards against Kentucky makes the 297 total yards against South Carolina a head scratcher. QB Josh Dobbs was fantastic with his five total touchdowns. The Vols were six yards away from having three 100-yard rushers in Dobbs (147 yards), Alvin Kamara (128) and John Kelly (94). Tennessee’s offense was night and day from what it was two weeks ago.

What the hell happened against the Gamecocks? Where was THIS Josh Dobbs? Was Jalen Hurd that much of a locker room distraction? What could this team’s postseason look like if they didn’t blow a game against a bad team?

I can answer the last question. UT should have beaten South Carolina. There’s no excuse for that loss two weeks ago. That lackluster performance ruined Tennessee’s chance for a special postseason on Rocky Top.

7-3 Vols vs. 8-2 Vols

Tennessee is 7-3 and is now back into the College Football Playoff rankings. The Vols actually rank somewhat high this week, making a jump from unranked to No. 19, closely behind LSU.

The Vols were ranked 18th in the country, dropping from No. 9, after its ugly loss to Alabama. Flip it to a “win” over South Carolina, plus the wins against Tennessee Tech and Kentucky, the Vols would definitely be ranked inside the Top 15 in the Playoff rankings. Hell, saying an 8-2 Vols team would be ranked in the Top 10 this week wouldn’t be crazy.

Wisconsin is the top ranked two-loss team at No. 7, followed by Penn State, Oklahoma and Colorado. Colorado’s best win is 10-5 at Stanford, who’s 4-3. Tennessee would be ahead of Colorado.

Vols playoff rankings
Updated College Football Playoff Rankings, Nov. 16. Wisconsin ranked as the top two-loss team (ESPN.com).

Tennessee’s resume with only the two Top 10 losses (Texas A&M, Alabama) would have given it the chance to place itself in contention for a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game. Plus, with Florida’s loss to Arkansas, the Vols would have held the inside track to the SEC Championship game.

What makes it worse is five top 10 teams lost this week: No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Washington, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Auburn. The door is now cracked open for a two-loss team to sneak into the College Football Playoff.

So, instead of playing for a Sugar Bowl berth, the Vols are on the path to a middle-of-the-road bowl game, like last year.

Tennessee being in the same spot as it was last season should make Vol fans puke in their mouths a little bit. 2016 was supposed to be the season where it all happened: Atlanta to Tampa. The Vols’ leaders left the Outback Bowl field in January saying the goal was to be back in Tampa for the National Title game.

They’ll most likely end up in Florida for bowl season, but not for a good reason. (What up TaxSlayer.com Bowl!?) Tennessee’s 2016 ending the same way as 2014 and 2015 is not where this program needs to be, but that’s where it’s headed.