If ever there was a coach in his second season that needed a big conference win, it's Derek Dooley.
Please don't take that to mean that Derek Dooley is on any kind of hot seat, because he's not. There's still over a half-season remaining in Dooley's grace period.
He doesn't need this win to convince anyone in the administration that he is the right man for the job. Dooley doesn't even need this win to convince recruits that he's going to be in Knoxville for a long time.
Dooley needs this win to convince himself, his team and the fans that Tennessee is, in fact, on its way back.
Based on the numerous rumors that followed Lane Kiffin's departure, Derek Dooley was probably not Tennessee's top choice to become the Vols head coach in 2010. It appeared that he was merely the first guy that said yes.
As a result, most Tennessee fans are behind him simply because of the deplorable way the last guy left the Vols. After you hit rock bottom, you are willing to grasp on to anything to help you get off the floor.
To this point, Dooley has been that stabilizing lifeline just to get up off the rocky bottom. Saturday will be the Vols' first real chance to start making the climb back up.
Any question about Dooley in the minds of Tennessee fans would probably be quieted until at least next year.
Furthermore, a win would add some legitimacy early in the tenure of the guy that up to this point has been viewed as more of a rescue worker than a legit SEC coaching star in the making.
Simply put, Tennessee has a golden opportunity to beat two quality SEC opponents—Georgia and South Carolina—in Knoxville this season. Dooley and the Vols must take advantage.
The Vols climb up begins with a program that Derek Dooley grew up rooting for—a program his father Vince raised from nothing to national power.
Keeping Mark Richt, who Vince Dooley hired at Georgia nearly 11 years ago, from his much-needed 100th win at the place where he won Nos. 3, 26 and 47 would be a much needed shot in the arm for the Tennessee program, Vols fans and most importantly, Derek Dooley.