Here's a news flash: Saturday at noon, the Tennessee offense is not going to be a juggernaut. Regardless of who the quarterback is, and it will be Jarrett Guarantano to start, the nation's 105th-ranked offensive unit isn't going to suddenly become elite.
Defensively, the SEC's worst run defense isn't going to become the Steel Curtain. That's not what happens during bye weeks. Even if it was the alleged “best bye week ever.”
The truth is this team has many warts. The Vols have issues beyond quarterback play and defensive line depth.
There are questions galore. And even if Tennessee beats South Carolina, those questions aren't going to go away.
But, win or lose, there is one question that Team 121 can answer on Saturday: What kind of pride do they have?
When you get beat 41-0 at home, someone stole your lunch money, made fun of your mom and rubbed your nose in the dirt. And then laughed at you.
The Vols are currently are the butt of many national jokes. They can say that they don’t listen to that stuff, but they notice. They know. How bad does that bother them? What’s their level of pride?
Those questions hurt those in Big Orange Country, but they are fair questions.
Following the embarrassment at the hands of Georgia, Butch Jones said that if you were any kind of competitor, you would not be able to wait to get back to the practice field to work, yet last week, multiple Vols missed time because of various bumps and bruises.
The highlight — or lowlight — of last week's work on practice field was a swift kick to the face of Trey Smith by Darrell Taylor, leading to Taylor's suspension and continued questions about team leadership, chemistry and well yes, pride.
On Saturday inside Neyland Stadium, there will be empty seats, and when a 3rd-and-4 isn't converted by the Tennessee offense, there will be boos.
Team 121 has much to prove to its fanbase. And they need to prove it quickly when the ball is kicked off on Saturday.
Adversity is coming. It's a football game. It always does. Saturday, does this Tennessee team fold or respond? Do they play or do they quit?
This isn't about Butch Jones' ability to coach, manage the game, or in his pregame speech.
This is about the pride of those wearing orange jerseys.
In years past, players have refused to let the Big Orange lose. Recently, Josh Dobbs and Derek Barnett, in the past Al Wilson, Leonard Little, and countless other Vol players — some great and some just role players — have said a loss isn't happening on my watch.
Saturday at noon, do enough of those who run through the “T” have that mentality?
For all of the questions that surround this imperfect Tennessee football team, the biggest one that we will get an answer to on Saturday is simple:
How much pride do these Vols still have?