The theories differ slightly from player to player, but the numbers are clear after one and a half seasons.
Tennessee hasn't been a good second-half team against SEC competition under coach Derek Dooley.
Saturday's 38-7 loss to No. 1 LSU just provided the latest example and, perhaps, the most dominant final 30 minutes by a UT opponent.
The Tigers scored touchdowns on all three of their possessions and milked the clock for nearly 22 minutes. It marked just the second time UT has been shut out by an SEC opponent in the second half under Dooley, but the eighth time it's been outscored.
All eight of those games ended in losses.
"I just feel like we get flat," senior running back Tauren Poole said. "Teams come out ready to go and we just come out flat and kind of gradually get back into it.
"That can't happen in SEC games. They are intense. They came out ready to hit and ready to be physical and we weren't prepared for it."
Both this year and last year, the Vols have had no issue coming out prepared in the first half of SEC games.
Though their SEC opponents have nearly doubled their point output (39-20)
in the first halves of games this season, the Vols (3-3, 0-3 SEC) have only been outscored 127-116 overall in the first halves of their 11 SEC games since 2010. The second half, though, has been problematic, as they've been outscored 169-105.
An ugly second half against Oregon last season gets canceled out by a dominating effort against Cincinnati this year, but the theme is well-established.
"I think we sit back," defensive end Marlon Walls said. "We play an OK first half because our hair is on fire and it's the No. 1 team coming in here, and I think we get kind of complacent and relax. I don't know why at all, but we do it and we have to figure out how to change it."
Offensively, the Vols have only scored on one of their six second-half opening possessions, a touchdown against Cincinnati. The other five games have seen the Vols punt three times, throw an interception and go down for a safety.
The Vols had no trouble overcoming their sluggish restarts against non-conference competition, but they've essentially had their hopes dashed because of them in all three SEC games. Florida, Georgia and LSU, all of whom were either tied or leading the Vols at halftime, scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half.
"It's the energy level," right tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "Next time or whenever, we've got to keep the same energy out of the locker room in the second half."
Tight Spot: Both Dooley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney had a bad feeling going into Saturday's game when it pertained to tight end Mychal Rivera's involvement with the offense.
Their concerns were validated.
For the second time this season, Rivera, who is third on the team with 248 receiving yards, went without a catch. Unlike the season opener against Montana, when he drew two pass interference calls on passes thrown in his direction, Rivera was barely targeted Saturday.
"A lot of it is because of the pressures, you max protect," Dooley said. "That's a dilemma with the tight end. So if you're going to max, you've got to go two tight ends and put the other tight end as the blocker When you want a seven-man protect it, he's a good protector but he's also a weapon at tight end.
"So he'll have his. Just one of those games. Sometimes tight ends, they've got to go block."
Historic Stretch: The Vols' game Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7:15 p.m.) at No. 2 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) will complete a vaunted back-to-back stretch that UT has never experienced before.
The Vols have never faced the Associated Press-ranked No. 1 and No. 2 teams in consecutive weeks and only once (2005) have they had back-to-back games against teams ranked in the top five. In fact, UT has faced teams ranked in the top 10 in consecutive weeks only 10 times in its history.
The game will be UT's third on ESPN2 this season and its first road game under the lights.