One thing is certain after the Tennessee Vols’ tough loss to South Carolina

The Tennessee Vols’ playoff hopes are officially dead after losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night.

For most of the week, the talk in Tennessee revolved around whether the Vols deserve to be in the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings above TCU.

Turns out, beating South Carolina should have been a bigger concern.

Tennessee’s inexplicable loss to the Gamecocks essentially eliminated the Vols from the playoffs.

There’s a reason Tennessee lost Saturday night — the defense was absolutely atrocious.

And that wasn’t a talent issue, it was a system issue.

11/19/2022; Colombia, South Carolina, United States; South Carolina Gamecocks tight end Jaheim Bell (0) drops a pass to Tennessee Volunteers defenseman Brandon Turnage (8) during the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee played soft covers for most of the night, trying to keep it in front of him.

That led to numerous situations where the Vols had South Carolina third and middle or third and long, only to see the Gamecocks convert and take first place.

Although Tennessee defense coordinator Tim Banks has seen this repeatedly, he has never adjusted his approach. South Carolina always did the same, and the Vols allowed it.

If this was a game against Georgia or Alabama, you could use the talent excuse. But that excuse won’t fly against South Carolina. And that’s no offense to Gamecocks players — the fact is, Alabama and Georgia (and even LSU) have far more talent than South Carolina.

I mean, this Vols team beat South Carolina 45-20 last season. Tennessee has obviously improved this season, but they totally nailed it Saturday night against the Gamecocks.

And it falls on Banks.

I’ve defended Banks and his “bend but don’t break” approach for most of the season. I understood that he had to adjust his approach because of the Vols staff.

But there was no apology for what happened in Columbia on Saturday night. South Carolina came out of a game where they scored six points against a not very good Florida team. And yet Tennessee let them score 25 more points than in any other SEC game this season.

The nation’s No. 5 team shouldn’t let that happen — especially against an unranked team.

We’ve seen those kinds of performances fire defensive coordinators before (like Kevin Steele at Clemson in 2011 after giving up 70 to West Virginia).

Simply put, the Vols need to make a change in defensive coordinator after this season. Banks just aren’t. He showed against South Carolina on Saturday that he’s not an SEC defense coordinator. He didn’t do a good job against Alabama, LSU made mistakes on its own, and Kentucky had a bad game plan.

Against South Carolina, Banks faced a mediocre SEC offense and got a boat race. There’s no excuse for that (although linebacker Jeremy Banks was out, there’s still no excuse).

The good news is that Tennessee, which struggled to hire a defensive coordinator in early 2021 (they heard multiple “no’s”), should have no trouble finding an elite option after this season. The Vols are still going in the right direction despite the loss to South Carolina. And they are ahead of schedule.

But if they want to stay ahead of schedule, Josh Heupel needs to make a change at defensive coordinator.

Featured image via Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports