Does Will Grier’s suspension open up the SEC East for Tennessee?
After opening SEC play with two losses, any chance to win the division appeared to go up in smoke for Tennessee. The comeback win over Georgia was not only gave Tennessee its first SEC victory, it gave the Vols hope down the stretch.
Now with the news of Florida suspending starting quarterback Will Grier for the remainder of the season, the two-game lead the Gators currently hold over Tennessee in the standins may not be quite as daunting.
”It definitely presents a little bit of hope for us,” safety Brian Randolph said Tuesday. ”That’s one of our main goals, to win the SEC East and get to the championship. We still have a chance for that. (With) Grier, it’s very unfortunate, but it does kind of leave the door open for us.’
The suspension of Grier came at a particularly bad time on the schedule for Florida, as the next two games are away from Gainesville — at LSU following by a trip to Jacksonville to play Georgia following the bye. If Florida drops both games, Tennessee could be in the driver’s seat for the division by Halloween.
If Tennessee manages to be in first place on Oct. 31, they will have earned it. With road trips to Alabama and Kentucky looming on the schedule, the Vols’ schedule is just as daunting as Florida’s.
Butch Jones spoke of his team’s renewed sense of energy and excitment, despite the next game being over a week away for Tennessee.
"Obviously, there’s no substitute for winning. There’s no substitute for positivity," Jones said Tuesday. "Our players gained a lot of confidence. They had a lot of energy yesterday. I thought they were excited to come to meetings. I liked their approach, but [it’s been] business as usual and preparing, just going through that checklist from a coaching standpoint and a team standpoint. This (bye) week is very big."
The Vols may have secured the best win of the Butch Jones era Saturday but can they realistically compete with Alabama, a team that has not only beaten Tennessee eight consecutive seasons but outscored the Vols 283-95 during the streak?
"We know we can play with anybody. The question was, could we finish? We finally did that this week," Randolph said. "So, that’s a good thing to get off our chest. It’s good to experience a big win like that and see how it feels so we can get there again."