As Arkansas travels to Tennessee this weekend, Saturday is likely to prove which program is further along in their third season under their current head coach. Arkansas was able to finish just as strong as Tennessee to close out 2014, but each team has had to face unique challenges this season, which threaten to derail the progress made thus far.
Tennessee's SEC hopes could be on the line in only the second conference game of the season. Getting behind by two in the East race after only two games would be a hole the Vols are unlikely to climb out of.
However if the Vols right their ship by and get the win, considering Florida plays Ole Miss and Georgia faces off against Alabama, Tennessee could find themselves back in the division hunt by Saturday night.
During his Wednesday press conference, Butch Jones was asked if he considered the Arkansas game a "must win."
"I do, I consider every game a must win when you're in this conference and when you're competing every game we play is a must win," Jones said. "That's the approach that we take just like, this is the most important game because it's the next game but the way I approach every game is a must win and that is why every game is critical."
Tennessee's coach believes the current leadership inside the program will keep the players focused and grinding toward the eventual victories that are there for the taking.
"We have to stay the course. You be consistent in your approach," Jones said. "It's all about constant and never ending improvement. You can't let any negativity, clutter, or distraction creep in and permeate throughout your football program. You can't allow that to happen. That's a challenge in today's world with social media, not for the coaches but for our football players. Especially being a young football team, you know this is all new to them, so you have to rely on your older players."
Jones also seemed pleased with his team's ability to move on from the tough Florida loss, something they may have not been able to do in the past.
"I've been really happy about the way they've responded," Jones said. "We have great character. We have great character in our program from coaches to everyone in our organization. You want them to hurt a little bit when they come in on Sunday because you invest in it.
"For us as coaches, this isn't just a game. It's our livelihood. It's what we do. So you put everything, you put every ounce of energy into it, and so it's going to do hurt. But I think we've responded very well."