KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The South Carolina is the biggest game for Tennessee because it’s the next game. It’s also important because it’s an SEC game, and the Vols must win every remaining one to have any hope of making it to Atlanta.

It’s also important for another reason: revenge.

The last time Butch Jones faced Will Muschamp was in 2014. It was the debut of Checker Neyland, and the Vols were aiming to end a nine-game losing streak to the Florida Gators.

Muschamp changed quarterbacks late in that 2014 game and erased a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The Gators won 10-9, and afterward Muschamp had choice words for the turn-of-events that kept the Gators’ streak alive.

“It’s great to see all these people out here disappointed, I love it,” Muschamp said.

Muschamp was fired after the 2014 season and hired this year as Steve Spurrier’s replacement at South Carolina, giving Jones the opportunity to seek revenge for that loss.

Jones, of course, is no stranger to these opportunities. His first two Tennessee teams lost frequently enough that revenge games were common.

Jones is 3-7 in games against head coaches after losing to them in the previous game. Outside of Nick Saban, Jones is 3-4.

The fourth-year Tennessee head coach has beaten Mark Richt, Gary Pinkel, and Jim McElwain after losing to them in the previous meeting. He’s yet to do that against Saban, Muschamp and Bob Stoops.

Butch Jones Revenge games

YearOpponentCoachResult
2014vs. FloridaWill MuschampL 10-9
2014at GeorgiaMark RichtL 35-32
2014vs. AlabamaNick SabanL 34-20
2014vs. MissouriGary PinkelL 29-21
2015vs. OklahomaBob StoopsL 31-24 2 OT
2015vs. GeorgiaMark RichtW 38-31
2015at AlabamaNick SabanL 19-14
2015at MissouriGary PinkelW 19-8
2016vs. FloridaJim McElwainW 38-28
2016vs. AlabamaNick SabanL 49-10

The Volunteers understand they have to win the final five regular-season games, which include four conference games. They also know they need Florida to lose one more conference game. If both happen, Tennessee plays for the conference championship in Atlanta.

Not that Jones is looking ahead. Football coaches never do. Jones is well aware of the week-by-week approach it will take to win the SEC East.

“The way I look at it is we are guaranteed five one-week seasons and that’s kind of the approach that we take,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into it, so the sense of urgency by everyone in our football organization has to be heightened.

“We have players in new roles and it’s going to be a race to maturity. We are going to have some individuals step up in terms of maturity, competitive maturity and everything that we are doing. Like I always remind our football team, it’s one thing to be ready, it’s another thing to be prepared. It’s two totally different things.

Everybody thinks they’re ready, but are you prepared?”

We’ll find out. The closing stretch starts Saturday with a date with an old nemesis.