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It was that great philosopher/golfer Lee Trevino who once said, "It's not how but how many." His point was this: It doesn't matter how you achieve your number ... only that you achieve it.

Tennessee's number through eight games is 4-4. That's better than the 3-5 mark most reasonable folks projected last August — assuming losses to Oregon, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

It would be easy to dwell on the fact the Vols were not competitive against the two elite teams on their schedule, losing 59-14 at Oregon and 45-10 Saturday at Alabama. But Trevino had it right: It doesn't matter how the Big Orange got to be 4-4 ... only that it is 4-4.

Watching the 2013 Vols, I'm reminded of the 1981 Vols. They suffered blowout losses to Georgia (44-0), Southern Cal (43-7) and Alabama (38-19) en route to being outscored 265-244 for the season. They managed to eke out some close wins, however, and wound up finishing 8-4.

Like the '81 team, the 2013 Vols lack the overall talent to compete with elite programs. But, like the '81 team, the 2013 Vols seem resourceful enough and scrappy enough to beat some opponents that aren't clearly superior athletically.

The good news is that there are no more elite teams on Tennessee's schedule. Despite impressive records, Missouri and Auburn are beatable. Vanderbilt and Kentucky are quite beatable.

Bottom line: If Tennessee plays the next four games the way it played against Georgia and South Carolina, the Vols can go 4-0 in November. That would produce an 8-4 record ... same as the '81 Vols.

The big picture

Justin Worley's thumb injury may prove to be a blessing. It forced Tennessee to play freshman Joshua Dobbs in the final two quarters against Alabama. Dobbs responded by completing 5 of 12 passes for 75 yards, with a couple of catchable balls dropped. He showed plenty of poise, good instincts and nifty footwork on some read-option keepers.

Although Bama wasn't playing with the same intensity in the second half it was in the first, it's worth noting that Dobbs directed five drives and produced 10 points. He proved himself capable of moving the chains and managing the offense. That's big: The next time Worley is struggling or hurting, Tennessee has a viable Plan B.

Players of the game

Offense: Marquez North

Coming off a three-catch, 102-yard performance against South Carolina, the gifted freshman followed with another spectacular showing against Bama. North caught four passes for 87 yards, including a 28-yard gainer that was the big play on Tennessee's only TD drive.

Defense: LaDarrell McNeil

The sophomore safety was Tennessee's second-leading tackler with 5 solos, 4 assists and 9 total stops. The fact a safety was making that many tackles underscores how ineffective the Vols' front seven was.

Next up…

At Missouri Nov. 2: The fifth-ranked Tigers slipped to 7-1 after blowing a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead and losing 27-24 in two overtimes to visiting South Carolina.

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