Forty-two percent of the Tennessee football season is gone. One hundred percent of optimistic expectations have vanished. Saturday at 4 p.m. will be the midpoint. Self-respect is the big remaining prize.

The UT team has performed below even media forecasts, which were low in comparison to those of paying customers. I cannot explain the strange regression, inept line play, turnovers, mistakes, minimum wild-eyed competitive zeal.

Confusion at quarterback is truly alarming.

ESPN has fired Butch 14 times. That he remains on the job has saved the university several million.

In the beginning, I thought our coach was thin-skinned. He reacted to every whisper of criticism. Now I think he might be tough enough to take it. I just don’t know if he can win enough games.

Other perspectives have changed. The one-stop narrow escape against Georgia Tech is now a precious memory. It looked bad at the time but has become a highlight.

It is much too late to get into correct alignment to defend that Florida pass. The depressing part is we still think what we thought, the Gators are not very good. They were there for the skinning.

Lethargy led to opportunity missed against UMass. Reserves could have benefitted from game experience. Alas, survival took precedence over developing depth.

Let us share gratitude that Georgia only trampled the Vols, set a few records and broke a few hearts but didn’t kill anybody. What Tennessee offered was among the all-time awfuls.

Next: South Carolina aligned for high noon says the TV gods didn’t think much of the matchup. The game offers no more than moderate national appeal but it is a giant whopper for Tennessee.

Talk about adjusting perceptions, in August the Gamecocks were projected as a dependable victory for the Vols. The home team is now the underdog. We did not expect South Carolina to come in 4-2. It knocked Arkansas sideways. Three defensive touchdowns were unexpected.

Of course, Carolina had a decent defense. It was surprising that the Razorbacks’ top two rushers produced only 60 yards.

May as well admit the truth: I never believed Will Muschamp was anything special as a head coach. He was plenty loud but he failed a golden opportunity with abundant Florida talent.

He has certainly succeeded against Tennessee. He is 5-0. He says he has a little secret. Rocky Top is played over and over during preparation for the Volunteers. He asks his players how much more they want to hear during the game. He tells them they have the ability to shut down the Pride of the Southland.

Listen up. The band will tell you how the game is going.

Until Saturday past, Alabama was considered invincible. It had walloped two Tennessee-type teams, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, by a combined 125-3.

Texas A&M made the Tide appear almost human at times. Nick Saban was properly displeased. He said his players have been listening to fans instead of him. He promised to get that corrected.

Some tradition survives. Tennessee plays at Alabama on the third Saturday in October.

The Vols will have to upset somebody to earn a bid to a bowl, any bowl, even one that may be beneath your dignity.

There are times Kentucky doesn’t bother with defense but the Wildcats are 5-1 and play with enthusiasm. LSU appeared to be a scrambled mess but took advantage of a Florida miscue to win in the swamp. The Gators actually missed an extra point.

Discounting Vanderbilt is a way of life but the Commodores scored twice against Georgia and that is 14 points better than you know who.

If discouraging developments are testing your patience, hang in there. Basketball begins in early November.

Marvin West invites reader reaction. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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Written by Marvin West