You couldn't tell it by their records, but Tennessee and South Carolina have something in common. Both probably have a hard time appreciating what a joy it is to be a part of the SEC.
There's the prestige of a conference that has produced the last six college football champions. There's also the wealth from long-term television contracts that soon will be renegotiated to even wealthier proportions.
But the advantages of wealth and prestige can't always numb you to the frustrations and disappointments of an average Saturday in the SEC.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Gamecocks looked like the best team in the East and a national championship contender as well while manhandling Georgia. All the promise the Saturday held was lost during the past two weekends. The Gamecocks lost an agonizingly close game to LSU before unraveling in a 44-11 loss to Florida on Saturday that all but ended any hopes of winning the division.
But their comedown from 6-0 is hardly surprising.
It's questionable whether even No. 1 Alabama could win three consecutive games against nationally ranked Georgia, LSU and Florida, including back-to-back road games at perhaps the conference's two most hostile venues, Tiger Stadium and The Swamp.
Tennessee can empathize.
It's well documented that third-year coach Derek Dooley took charge of UT football at its lowest ebb — after coach Phillip Fulmer's last team had gone 5-7 and after the Lane Train had sped through town westward bound.
As monumental as Dooley's rebuilding job was after succeeding one-year coach Lane Kiffin, it has been exacerbated by the most difficult series of schedules ever faced by a UT coach.
The road trip to South Carolina will mark UT's fourth consecutive game against a nationally ranked opponent. Moreover, the Vols played Florida, currently at No. 3, in September.
That's five games against nationally ranked opponents, which qualifies as routine for the Dooley era. The Vols (3-4) also played five nationally ranked opponents in each of his first two seasons.
As bad as UT looked in a 44-13 loss to Alabama on Saturday, you can't dismiss the schedule as a factor. In the past, the Vols usually have had easier lead-ins and follow-ups to the Tide.
For the 15 seasons before Dooley's arrival, Tennessee played what turned out to be a winning team only three times the week before Alabama. In nine of those seasons, it had two weeks to prepare for the Tide.
In Dooley's first UT season, he had an open date the week before Alabama. But last year, he had to deal with No. 1 LSU the week before Alabama, which was followed by No. 17 South Carolina.
This season has been just as difficult.
The week before No. 1 Alabama came unbeaten Mississippi State, now ranked 13th, or one spot below Georgia. South Carolina is 17th again, despite having lost its previous two games.
Any SEC program is assured of a rigorous schedule. But South Carolina's run of games the past three weeks has bordered on inhumane. And UT has had a steep climb for three seasons.
The climb could be just as steep next season.
The Vols will play No. 2 Oregon in the third game of next season and No. 3 Florida in the fourth. They also will face three other teams currently ranked 17th or higher.
Just another average Tennessee schedule.