Wins and losses don't reveal true team success or failure.
Following Saturday's heartbreaking loss to LSU, Tennessee fell to 2-3 on the season and 0-2 in SEC conference play.
That's not the kind of record fans should ever expect from one of the all-time winningest programs in college football. But this season is much different from most.
This Volunteers team is not a typical UT team. The players on this team have been through as much adversity as almost any former UT players have, with three head coaches in three seasons and numerous close, last-second losses in the past few years.
Given the shortcomings this team has, talent and depth-wise, not to mention playing in the best conference in college football, it is unfair to judge this team based on its record at season's end.
First-year coach Derek Dooley alluded to this at a press conference earlier in the season, when he said that today's society, especially the younger generation, which includes his players, seem to look at a team's win-loss record or a player's yards gained or touchdown total as the deciding factor on whether that team or player had success during that game or season.
Dooley said this was not a good way to judge success, and I agree.
What difference does the LSU loss have when fans will judge UT's season? One more win to add to the win column? A Peach Bowl bid instead of a Music City Bowl bid? Would Tauren Poole rushing for only 950 yards, as opposed to 1,000, not make him a good running back?
Anyone who saw the game Saturday saw a Vols team, which had squeaked by an average-at-best Conference-USA team at home in overtime the week before, outplay and especially outcoach a Tigers team that is one of the most talented teams in America and was playing at home in one of the most intimidating stadiums in college football.
Dooley had his team ready to play, from the coach's gameplan to the player's execution, and the Vols played arguably their best game of the season to date, when no one thought they would (the experts had them as 16.5-point underdogs).
While judging this UT team solely by its wins and losses at the end of the season will more than likely bring disappointment, fans need to look at the team's overall body of work before making a decision on whether the season was successful or not.
Some will argue that anything less than an SEC title is failure in Knoxville, and while that might have been the case five years ago and will be five years down the road, this team never realistically had a chance to make it to Atlanta to play in the SEC Championship game this season.
Instead, fans should've been looking for a team that played hard for 60 minutes, never quit when faced with adversity and, most importantly, worked hard each day to get better and improve as the season progresses.
During the first five games of the season, the Vols have seen many highs and lows. Fans can agree, though, that the Vols have played hard since the second half against Oregon and didn't give up when the breaks went against them against Florida and UAB.
And on Saturday in a hostile environment against LSU, the Vols fulfilled all three of these expectations. They played hard for 60 minutes, they didn't give up when LSU scored on the first play of the game, and they showed a lot of improvement from the previous week, especially on defense.
While this one game doesn't mean the Vols will live up to these expectations the rest of the season, after all this is still a young team learning how to win consistently in the SEC, the way they played in Death Valley on Saturday should give fans positive vibes as the Vols get ready to play Between the Hedges this week at Georgia.