Misery Index Week 12: Embarrassing loss costs Tennessee spot in College Football Playoff

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It was right there, Tennessee. 

Given all the chaos in college football over the last few weeks, all the Vols had to do was beat South Carolina and Vanderbilt, then kick their heels up and watch championship weekend from their couch. If they won both games, a berth in the College Football Playoff was all but locked up. 

So what does Tennessee do? They didn’t just lose Saturday to South Carolina, they got absolutely exposed and embarrassed, 63-38, proving that coach Josh Heupel – and his ballyhooed offensive system – just wasn’t ready for prime time.

South Carolina scored touchdowns on its first five offensive possessions, then got into the end zone on four straight trips in the second half after Tennessee pulled within 35-31. In the end, a South Carolina team that had just 237 yards of offense last week against Florida (and just 203 in a home setback to Missouri on Oct. 29) came up with 606 yards against a team that many pundits and Vol fans already had penciled into the semifinals.

That will leave a mark. 

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel checks the scoreboard during the second half of the Volunteers' loss to South Carolina.

Though this season was an overall net positive for the Vols after the clown show this program has been for the last 15 seasons, the way this season developed was a rare opportunity. Under Heupel, the Vols looked almost unstoppable offensively at times and had notched wins over Alabama and LSU. Even with just a little bit of help, their playoff argument was strong. 

But Tennessee just completely fell apart under pressure and suffered one of the most lopsided losses in the modern era for a team that was favored by three touchdowns. In the process, quarterback Hendon Hooker suffered what appeared to be a pretty serious leg injury in the fourth quarter. 

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