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Tennessee Athletics photo by Andrew Ferguson / Tennessee senior outside linebacker Deandre Johnson hasn't celebrated a win since the 35-12 whipping of Missouri on Oct. 3.

More than two months have passed since the Tennessee Volunteers last tasted victory on the football field with their 35-12 thumping of Missouri inside Neyland Stadium on Oct. 3.

The Vols never have endured such a gap between triumphs in the same season, a fact that obviously isn't easy to stomach heading into Saturday afternoon's home game against No. 6 Florida.

"We've still got three games left, and we're just trying to fight hard and get wins," senior outside linebacker Deandre Johnson said this week. "It's never going good when you're not winning."

At 2-5 with five consecutive losses, Tennessee still has the potential to salvage some success in this once promising season due to a remaining schedule that also contains No. 5 Texas A&M and state rival Vanderbilt. Ending a 35-game losing streak against top-10 foes certainly would be cause for instant celebration, as would a strong finishing kick similar to last year that included a Gator Bowl victory over Indiana.

With major conferences playing varying amounts of contests and nobody looking at a 12-game schedule, the NCAA waived the six-win minimum needed to compete in the postseason. Tennessee ventured to the 2010 Music City Bowl and to the 2014 Gator Bowl with 6-6 records, but the Vols have never gone to a bowl with a losing record.

Jeremy Pruitt would gladly accept the honor of being the first Vols coach to experience that.

"You look at all the young men across the country who came back when they had no idea what the circumstances were," Pruitt said. "They came back because they love the game and they wanted an opportunity to play. Our guys continue to work really hard, and this is one year. We probably will have a majority of our team back next year, and it's something that they would look forward to."

Multiple Southeastern Conference teams will play in bowl games this season, but there is no guarantee Tennessee will be among them. The newly rebranded Football Bowl Association released projections late last week and did not include the Vols, pegging Ole Miss to the Liberty Bowl and Kentucky to the Music City Bowl.

Tennessee, South Carolina (2-7) and Vanderbilt (0-8) were the only three SEC members not projected for the postseason.

"A bowl game is always fun, and it's always a great experience," Vols sophomore running back Eric Gray said. "I remember going to the TaxSlayer Bowl last year as a freshman, and some of our guys had never been able to experience that before. Our freshmen now haven't gotten to experience it.

"If you look at last year, our last game was Vanderbilt. Then being able to go from Vanderbilt to the Indiana game, I felt like you saw a more complete team. Those extra practices throughout December allowed us to come together, and it allows you to build on your next season."

The Vols likely would clinch some kind of postseason destination with a win over the Gators (7-1). A loss, however, would extend the misery.

"I think our team morale is high," senior receiver Josh Palmer said. "We've only had two games in the last five weeks, so we're eager to get out there."

 

Georgia-Vandy off

The SEC on Friday announced the postponement of Saturday afternoon's football game between Vanderbilt and Georgia in Sanford Stadium due to the inability of the Commodores to meet the requirements for an overall 53-player roster and with certain position groups.

The game was rescheduled for Dec. 19, according to the league office, which means Tennessee will travel to Vanderbilt next week and host Texas A&M on Dec. 19.

 

Vols hoops update

Tennessee announced Friday that its men's basketball game Wednesday night against the University of Tennessee at Martin in Thompson-Boling Arena has been canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Skyhawks program.

The Vols already have endured their own COVID-19 issues that forced cancellations last week against Charlotte and VCU and this week against top-ranked Gonzaga and Notre Dame. A home game against Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 12 is Tennessee's opener for now, but the Vols are actively seeking another opponent before that game.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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