This was supposed to be the year Tennessee finally won in the Swamp.
The Vols hadn’t won at Florida in 20 years.
You heard that all week.
Tennessee was supposed to end the losing streak on Saturday and begin its journey to the SEC title game.
Then Saturday night happened. And the Vols lost to the Gators… again.
So where does Tennessee go from here?
The Florida loss — as disappointing as it is — represents one game.
Tennessee can still win the SEC East.
And if not that, the Vols can still have a successful season by most standards.
That’s going to take some corrections, though.
Tennessee’s loss to Florida exposed several issues.
-The offensive line struggled to protect
-The defense couldn’t get off the field for an entire half
-The Vols’ quarterback was too up and down
This was not the beginning of SEC play that Tennessee or its fans expected.
Not against a Florida team that had zero momentum entering the game.
Tennessee’s remaining schedule includes several teams in better shape than Florida.
Here’s some good news: many of the Vols’ future opponents have their own questions to answer.
South Carolina is 0-2 against Power Five teams and has shown major offensive line issues.
Texas A&M gave up 48 points in a loss to Miami.
Alabama is still looking for a quarterback after struggling against USF on Saturday.
No one on Tennessee’s schedule is unbeatable, including Georgia.
But let’s get back to Tennessee.
If the Vols don’t fix many of the issues they showed against Florida, more losses are coming.
There will be calls from some of the fanbase for a quarterback change.
And maybe that’s a decision Josh Heupel makes at some point.
Before that, he needs to fix the offensive line.
Because Heupel’s offense will not reach its potential without improved quarterback protection.
Center Cooper Mays will return at some point. That will help.
The other thing Tennessee will have to address: adversity.
This will be the first time under Heupel that people will question what’s happening with the program.
Not everybody will. But in the emotional world of college football, it doesn’t take much.
How will this team respond to the loss?
It could galvanize the team to focus and work to prove it’s closer to the preseason top-10 team we talked about than the flawed team we’ve seen for three weeks.
Tennessee can win the next two games against UTSA and South Carolina at home to improve to 4-1, then have two weeks to prepare for Texas A&M at Neyland Stadium.
That would keep hope alive in the SEC East.
But if the Vols slip up in two weeks when South Carolina comes to Knoxville?
I don’t need to tell any Tennessee fan what that would do.
Put a big X next to Tennessee’s goal of ending the losing streak at Florida.
That’s a loss.
But it’s only one loss.
Every other preseason goal is still on the board for Tennessee.
Better get back to work. There’s no time to waste.