Tennessee Vols head coach Butch Jones said multiple times Monday his team has “a lot to play for” with two games left in the season, but it won’t include an appearance in the SEC title game.
Florida won the SEC East for the second consecutive season under second-year Gators coach Jim McElwain with a 16-10 win over LSU on Saturday.
“I have never been through a season like this in 30-plus years of coaching in terms of the adversities, the injuries, the setbacks, the big wins, all that, that go into it and our players have done a great job,” Jones said Monday at his biweekly news conference.
Jones said he never puts a number of wins on what determines a successful season.
“I want to make it clear that winning a championship is our number one goal in our program year in and year out,” Jones said.
Jones said his team’s second half performance in the 63-37 win against Missouri defines UT’s football program, despite Florida securing the East division on Saturday afternoon. Tennessee only led Missouri 21-20 at halftime.
“I’m not naive enough to tell you, that they probably…they knew what had happened. They knew exactly the situation,” Jones said. “We never addressed it, but kids are kids. They know.
"I think the greatest illustration was our performance in the second half."
On Monday, Jones said junior safety Todd Kelly Jr., senior offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman and sophomore Chance Hall are all questionable for Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. Jones said all three players would practice Monday.
Tennessee (8-3, 4-3 SEC) concludes the regular season on Saturday night in a road contest against Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 SEC).
Vanderbilt is seeking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013, which marked James Franklin’s last season coaching the Commodores.
The 2013 season marked the last time Vanderbilt beat Tennessee.
“You always remember those,” Jones said. “It’s always the loses you always remember.”
The loss knocked Tennessee out of bowl contention for the third consecutive season. Tennessee has won three bowl games in a row since then.
Kickoff between the Vols and Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The game airs on the SEC Network.
Tennessee leads the series against Vanderbilt 75-29-5.