Game recap: UT vs South Carolina
April is the cruelest month, wrote the poet T.S. Eliot. Those who profess to bleed Tennessee orange beg to differ.
There may have been tougher months to grind through than the October that just ended, but they don't come to mind.
October is the month in which college football teams set the stage for championship runs in November.
At Tennessee in 2010, October was the month the Vols went 0-4 and got outscored 136-58.
October is the month when anticipation for basketball season begins to build. The preseason polls appear, practice begins in earnest and the season-opener is just around the corner.
At Tennessee in 2010, October was the month UT fans learned more dispiriting details that heightened concern about Bruce Pearl's NCAA mess.
Here's the good news: Check your calendar. It's November.
That's not to suggest Tennessee has a clean slate, that all its problems vanish with the flip of a page.
Derek Dooley's football team is still short of numbers, experience and, at some positions, talent.
The NCAA investigation of Pearl's basketball program is still hovering. Worse news is possible yet.
Still, for the fans at least, November should present much-needed outlets for relief.
Before football season kicked off, realists could project a winless October. LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina were in better shape than the Vols. Alabama was on a higher level altogether.
Sure enough, it came to pass. UT had a chance to beat LSU on Oct. 2 and has only a colossal, self-inflicted wound to blame for a 16-14 loss in stoppage time.
The Vols never answered the bell at Georgia, gave Alabama a run for a half, then scrapped with South Carolina into the final minutes.
Tennessee has experienced one prior winless October, but it was only half this tough. In 1991, the Vols lost to Florida and Alabama and had two open dates.
The 1909 Vols went 0-4-1 in October. A scoreless tie with Centre College was the highlight.
The November schedule - Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Kentucky - is less ominous. The Vols won't be 16- to 17-point underdogs in any of them, as they were in every October outing.
But is the team too beat down physically or mentally from October? It's a fair question.
"I don't see any sign of us collapsing,'' Dooley said Sunday.
"Probably our worst game was Georgia. We played a little bit better against Alabama and a little bit better against South Carolina.
"As long as we continue that upward trend we'll be OK.''
Over in Thompson-Boling Arena, there's a mixture of excitement and dread.
We learned in October what UT should have made clear at its initial Pearl/NCAA news conference in September - that UT revoked Pearl's contract. And while both parties are working on getting a new one signed, it hasn't happened yet.
The NCAA will weigh in with a letter of allegations, perhaps in December. In a worst-case scenario, further penalties could make it difficult for Pearl to survive. And that's a development nobody wants to see.
But while waiting for the proverbial other sneaker to drop, at least there will be games to play. The first exhibition is Wednesday and the season opens for real Nov. 12.
Pearl's deepest team will be good and fun to watch. Thompson-Boling Arena will be rocking with positive energy.
You remember positive energy? There wasn't a lot of it around in October.