In case you missed it, Monday was the one-year anniversary of Derek Dooley's firing as the Tennessee football coach.
Fittingly, Butch Jones took a step back on Monday to survey the time elapsed since.
"We've taken monumental strides of where we're at right now than we walked in here on Dec. 7," Jones said at his press luncheon. " Sometimes, the progress isn't measured in wins, but I see the small victories each and every day."
The unfortunate truth for Jones, however, is that on Saturday, UT fans should and probably will measure the progress of the football program by what happens on the field against Vanderbilt.
UT is 28-2 in its past 30 games against the Commodores. If, heaven forbid, the Vols lose to Vandy for a second straight year on Saturday, it will be a fourth straight loss on the year and eliminate the possibility of a bowl game.
That should never be OK at Tennessee. It shouldn't matter if Nick Saban is coaching at Vanderbilt and the Vols are playing at West High School because of structural failure at Neyland Stadium.
Any UT supporter who takes even the slightest amount of pride in the Tennessee's football program should shudder in disgust at the idea of losing consecutive games to the in-state little brother that essentially does play in a high school stadium in Nashville.
If that loss eliminates UT from the postseason, it should sting even more.
That's not to say Vanderbilt hasn't made great strides under James Franklin. Obviously, it has. And UT is not what it was in the 1990s.
To no avail, a loss to Vanderbilt ought to hurt. It apparently hurt Michael Palardy last season when the Vols dropped a 41-18 decision at Vanderbilt Stadium and capped Dooley's demise.
"I try not to remember it," Palardy said Monday. "It was kind of a disappointing season on all accounts. For me personally, I just wanted to make sure that something like that never happened ever again."
If the Vols win, they are likely to make a bowl game. That on-field success combined with a remarkable 2014 recruiting class will make for jubilant UT fans who remain in the honeymoon stage of their infatuation with the post-Dooley era.
But a loss on Saturday gives fans reasonable privilege to put Jones under the microscope for year two.
It should not give fans a reason to panic yet, just reason to view things through a more critical eye in 2014 once some of the talent Jones is missing starts arriving.
"We aren't dealing with robots, we are dealing with 17-to-22 year old individuals," Jones said of his players Monday.
UT supporters are not robots, either. While the Vanderbilt game to Jones is "a critical game because it is the next game on our schedule," it should be critical game to UT fans if for no other reason than losing to the Commodores should be embarrassing.
Saturday is more than just the next game. It determines if the year-long honeymoon continues.
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