Tennessee plummets in rankings after loss at South Carolina

Tennessee’s 63-38 loss in South Carolina on Saturday night sent the Vols four spots in the Associated Press top 25 and six spots in USA Today’s Coaches Poll.

Tennessee (9-2, 5-2 SEC) now sits 9th on the AP Top 25 and 11th on the Coaches Poll. The Vols finish the regular season schedule in Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5) Saturday with a kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time at FirstBank Stadium in Nashville. The game will be televised by SEC Network.

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler completed 30 of 37 passes for 438 yards and six touchdowns while tearing apart Tennessee’s defense. The 63 points the Gamecocks scored was the most allowed by the Vols in modern times.

Vols loses three players to injury in South Carolina

Hendon Hooker completed 25 of 42 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns, ran five times for another 25 yards, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a noncontact left leg injury. Joe Milton III replaced Milton and completed 4 of 8 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Jabari Small rushed 11 times for 80 yards and a touchdown to put Tennessee on the ground. Cedric Tillman caught nine passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns.

The injury virus also bit Tennessee in secondary school when Brandon Turnage left the game with an injury. Wide receiver Bru McCoy did not play in the second half due to an undisclosed injury.

Tennessee redshirt senior linebacker Jeremy Banks didn’t make the trip with the Vols, with Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel saying after the game that he was simply “unavailable for this game.”

“Anticipation and hope for next week,” added Heupel.

Next up: Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, SEC Network

The Vols lost their bid for a berth in the College Football Playoffs semifinals with the loss. However, there are still seats on the table in New Year’s Six Bowl games, including Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl.

“For us and this program, it must hurt on the way back,” said Heupel. “It must hurt for people who are not on this journey, who will be at our building tomorrow afternoon and will be there on Monday.

“In order for us to grow as a program, you need to take this opportunity and understand what happened. let it hurt And keep that in mind as you move on. Let it help you grow.”

Tennessee has won its last three games against Vanderbilt, but the ‘Dores come after angry victories over Kentucky on the road and Florida on Saturday in Nashville.

The Vols won 22 consecutive Vanderbilt series wins between 1982 and 2004 before Vandy won 28-24 at Neyland Stadium in 2005. Tennessee responded with six straight wins before the ‘Dores won 41-18 in Nashville in 2012, leading to the dismissal of Dooley the following day.