'Time' for SEC title

Underdog Vols are ready for distracted, beat up LSU

Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer huddles with his players during a short practice the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. Tennessee will play LSU in the Southeastern Conference championship football game Saturday.

Photo by Dave Martin / AP

Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer huddles with his players during a short practice the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. Tennessee will play LSU in the Southeastern Conference championship football game Saturday.

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ATLANTA - To get here, everything lined up just right for Tennessee.

Missed field goals by Vanderbilt and South Carolina, crucial losses by SEC East favorite Florida and those dramatic turns last week against Kentucky - all played their part.

And now it's all falling in line again as the Vols make their first appearance in the SEC championship game since 2004.

When the ball hits the climate-controlled air in the Georgia Dome today at 4 p.m. (TV: WVLT) with an SEC championship on the line, 14th-ranked Tennessee will be in the underdog role it relished for much of the year.

As far as defensive tackle Demonte' Bolden is concerned, the clock favors Tennessee, too.

"It's time," Bolden said. "It's definitely time. I'm going to say that because I'm playing.

"It's definitely time for us to win this SEC championship and hopefully go on and kill the stereotypes about Tennessee."

Tennessee (9-3, 6-2 SEC) has put the hush on its harshest critics with five straight wins to clinch the SEC East.

One more win and Tennessee can hoist its first SEC championship trophy since 1998 and punch its first BCS ticket since it earned a berth in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.

A win and UT is off to the Sugar Bowl in new Orleans on Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, No. 4 LSU enters today's game limping, literally and figuratively.

The Tigers (10-2, 6-2), ranked No. 1 for much of the season, lost their national title hopes in three overtimes last week against Arkansas.

Quarterback Matt Flynn is a game-time decision, with an injury to his throwing shoulder.

All-America defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey has been hobbled by back spasms, even admitting this week that he won't be playing at 100 percent.

Safety Craig Steltz, tailback/kick returner Trindon Holliday and safety Curtis Taylor aren't fully healthy, either.

Those injuries have played a major part in the recent decline of LSU's defense.

The Tigers still lead the SEC and rank third nationally in total defense, but they have given up 209 total points in their final seven SEC games, two of which went to triple overtime.

In LSU's last two conference games, Arkansas rolled up 513 yards of total offense and Ole Miss - the same Ole Miss that went winless in the SEC and ranks ninth in the conference in total offense - posted 466 yards and 24 points.

Then there's the Tigers coaching staff.

LSU coach Les Miles will presumably interview with Michigan soon, after LSU athletic director Skip Bertman gave the Wolverines permission to speak with Miles.

ESPN.com reported that defensive coordinator Bo Pelini will be introduced as Nebraska's head coach on Monday barring any last-minute snags.

Miles, however, maintained Friday that the coaching rumors haven't been a distraction.

"This is about this team," Miles said. "I promise you, if you think that it's a conversation I can have with my wife, I can't. It's not something I talk about. It would be certainly a distraction to me and be cheating my team. I wouldn't do it. So we'll get beyond this game, and we'll see what happens."

Physically, the Vols are banged up themselves.

Reserve tailback Montario Hardesty (ankle) likely won't play; and others, like freshman cornerback Brent Vinson (shoulder), are playing through pain.

Emotionally, though, the Vols are riding high. And they're clinging to that underdog role one more time.

"I really do like where we're at right now," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "Nobody giving us a chance to win and things like that. I know I've been saying it for the past few weeks, but I like being in the underdog role. I think we play better as a team."

Ultimately, that's what it comes down.

Once the ball is kicked, the championship will be decided by the 11 players on the field.

And distractions only go so far.

"Guys, we're playing for the Southeastern Conference championship," Fulmer said. "Both schools are. And that's something that doesn't happen every day.

"After the ball is snapped, kicked off and stuff, outside perimeter stuff, that really doesn't matter too much."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 75

MemphisVol writes:

Go VOLS!!!! Get H U G E ! ! !

mbradshaw1#655539 writes:

Be very cautious of a wounded Tiger!!!
Stay focused and take care of the ball.
We have everything to gain and nothing to loose.
Go out and have fun and leave nothing on the field. I'm proud of you all.

GO VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BigVolinCarolina writes:

Put on the chinstrap, stay focused and give it all you got for 60 minutes. If we'll do that, I'll be happy regardless of the outcome.

Of course I want to win--who doesn't? I just want us to leave it all on the field. Go VOLS!

Hunter writes:

TouchdownTN's inside source is......that he is actually Les Miles in disguise! Ah, that explains a lot from this season.....

Give 'em hell, Tennessee.

FWBVol writes:

Reggie White didn't live up to his potential until his senior year. Everybody seems to forget that as dominant as Reggie was his senior year and in the NFL, he only had 17 sacks his first three seasons at UT and was never named first-team all-conference or AA until his senior season. Bolden still has a chance to make his mark with a great senior year. I hate to think where this team would be without him on the D-Line.

Huntingdonvol writes:

JUST DO IT BLOOD AND GUTS !!!!!!GO VOLS

fencevol writes:

I was at the 2004 SEC Championship game, and if I remember, LSU played most of the game without thier starting QB,RB,WR and Safety. I would not put a lot into the LSU injury factor. The Les Miles situation will have more impact than injuries. I pick the vols to win because they are playing on the upswing and LSU is on the downward cycle. This team has come a long way and overcame a lot ups and downs. It is just thier time to pull off a "Major League", "let's win the whole damn thing" GO VOLS !!!!!!

jawjavol writes:

hey fence, I don't think LSU played any players on their entire roster in the 2004 SECCG. Auburn on the other hand did play quite a few of their Tigers in that game!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Nirvana -absorption into the divine. Close this morning as the hills sleep under my gaze. Dogs getting their last miutes of slumber on the porch. It truly is TIME. I turned away my two nephews pleas to join them in Atl. I will relish this day here in the foothills beside the Cumberland. Myself and three friends will gather at noon to prepare. It is Time. We have marveled and perused the stats of dslskaggs-watched the fervor of marc ash-huntingdonvol-vol in lsu,etc. We have been amused to watch the rabid thrusts at realism by TDTN and fans repeatedly rose to the bait. And it has come to this day. At 4:08 or so, toe meets leather and 22 stalwart lads will face down. Lady luck will remove her hand from her eyes and smile on someone. Lord, let it be our beloved Vols. We have come for the Grail, let us hold it aloft. It has been an epic journey and we have emerged here. Torn clothes from the snags, but we're here. Grant us this these wishes, simply that no one is hurt, let us play our very best and let us emerge victorious this day! Happy holidays and let it be a Merry Vol Christmas.

Volnut writes:

Mayo a bust? TDTN... I tend to overlook most of your posts but your comment about Mayo clues me in to the kind of person you are.

Don't know which team you've watched but Mayo is a ball player. Not sure of your credentials as to judging talent (i.e. played pee wee, maybe Jr High... might have even sat the pine for Varsity) but you're about as clueless as I've seen on this board.
Mayo is the team leader 67 solo's 45 assist's for a total of 112 tackles. Yeah real bust.

Do us a favor and just comment about things you have a firm grasp on. Needle point, Clipping coupons..etc.

Volnut writes:

TDTN.... I need to apologize.. you were referring to Demonte' Bolden as the bust. And once again while Demonte has had his share of problems both on and off the field, I hardly consider throwing in the towel on this kid and rate him as a bust.

But then again opinions are just that and you're entitled to yours as I am to mine, but belittling a kid who's actually playing ball( On scholarship and in the SEC) instead of Monday morning QB'ing/Coaching just goes to show the rest of us how much you try to build yourself up by tearing others down.

Once again my apologies for misreading the your comment on who was the bust.

utvols1 writes:

why even play vinson? How can he possibly defend anyone with one arm? And duh-of course LSU will put as much presure on Ainge as possible. That's his big problem, he cracks under presure. I sure hope cut will roll him out, throw screens to slow down their rush. I'll bet Perrileux (sp)starts too. We haven't done well with running QB's so I pray that we've prepared for that too.
Let's go Vols.

scottc#269453 writes:

Time for the Big Orange Nation to make some noise...get LOUD in Atlanta...I am ready to send the puttytats back to the swamps with a LOSS. GO VOLS!

vol4good#206163 writes:

If perrylou starts for LSU, chavis should try the prowler D for a few snaps and try to confuse that young QB. Oh and I know I misspelled his name. I am pumped--Lets go VOLS!
Yall sing it with me
I'TS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL!

99gator writes:

good luck. i have a feeling if tenn wins.... the lsu fan base will show mr. miles the quickest way to get to michigan.

i will throw in my two cents on the biggest keys to the game outside of the normal stuff like turnovers.

tenn and lsu must have manigable 3rd down situations. 3rd and long is difficult to pick up against lsu. lsu does not have the kind of passing game, despite the presence of doucett to pick up 3rd and longs against tenn.

tackle, tackle, tackle, and tackle. missing a tackle on perilloux, holiday, doucett, lafell, k. williams and you are in deep trouble.

pick on steltz in pass coverage as much as possible.

i don't know who will win.... and know that no one wants to hear this.... but i have a feeling lsu gets it done. there is an image of "poor, poor pitiful me" about this team this week that i'm not buying. don't get me wrong, i would also not be surprised if tenn dropped the hammer on lsu either. but, if you put a gun to my head.... my gut feeling says lsu.

i also have a hard time believing that lsu will have the sec's best team for 3 straight seasons and end up with nothing but two divisional titles... which means squat.

Pullingguard writes:

LSU will put a lot of pressure on the QB.. They know that Ainge does not handle pressure very well, Their intent will be, you are not gonna beat us passing the ball, beat us running if you will, but the pressure is coming.. Will be interesting to see how the OL of Vols plays which will be a key to the game.

writer#358485 writes:

I expect a hard-fought battle. The Vols can win, but it will be tough. But if they fight hard and even lose close, we all should be very proud of what they, and the coaches, have accomplished this year. Go Vols!

CoverOrange writes:

2 Rs, 2 Ls and an X: Perrilloux.

Marc Ash, your blast at VolnFla was uncalled for and TDTNish. I know you are better than that.

Alk, please show some respect to a visitor that has shown respect to all of us all season long. His post may be long but is refreshing compared to some other shorter unsubstantive ones.

bd330794#206783 writes:

Just heard Periloux will start. Is he a runner or a drop back passer?

Volsrbest writes:

BELIEVE! The team believes they can do it and so should we!

GO VOLS!!

rootin4volz writes:

Miles is as big a liar as Saban...Kirk Herbstreit is reporting on GameDay that Miles WILL be announced as Michigan's next Head Coach on Monday. LET THE LSU DISTRACTIONS CONTINUE TO RAIN DOWN!!! GO VOLS!!!

rootin4volz writes:

Hey 99Gator..."manigable"? Oh, sorry...I forgot...You went to Florida.

gohawks1 writes:

ESPN bottomline states that Ryan Perilloux is expected to start at QB for LSU.

Volnut writes:

99gator,

Thanks for being a class act. I always enjoy your take on the topics at hand. As far as my fellow UT fans, I can only apologize for their lack of manners.

Here's hoping Tbow brings home the hardware. If he doesn't then it's another big done over as we in the SEC should be use to.

fivewides writes:

I'm concerned about our corners. Periloux & Hester will get our attention up front...they'll take every opportunity to chuck it deep against our man coverage. I love the potential of our young guys back there, but I'm not sure right now how many one-on-ones we can win against those big LSU receivers. Chavis had some good looking blitzes schemed up last week, let's hope he can find those holes again and disrupt their rhythym. There were a few times it was all out jail-break, which always gets you on the edge of your seat! Reminds me of watching ol' Leonard Little explode off that line and just SCHOOL the OL. Man...those were great defenses to watch. We'll get back there sooner than later.

gohawks1 writes:

Tebow had a great year, but I'd be surprised if he receives the heisman as a sophomore. Has that ever happened before?

vol52 writes:

If lsu does not have enough distractions for us to beat them we will never beat anyone.

sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3136391

fivewides writes:

Just got the kiss of death. Corso picks UT.

gohawks1 writes:

Just found the answer to my own question - if this is a complete listing (see link below), no freshman or sophomore has ever won the heisman.

You may have to copy and paste this adress:

http://www.heisman.com/winners/hsmn-w...

gohawks1 writes:

Sorry....address (Spelling bee champ, 5th grade).

And you don't have to copy and paste - it is a direct link.

AllVol writes:

pdhuff,

You brought a tear to my eye, sir. That was plumb poetical. You must be an English professor. We here in Chattanooga join you in your request for the smile of Heaven upon our glorious Volunteers. We need this one badly. If it is not to be, it is not to be; we will, however still be Tennessee Volunteers, and that is truly a blessing in and of itself.

Coach Fulmer wins this one, and he will take his rightful place as an equal to General Neyland himself. May it be so . . . .

RockyTopRosser writes:

None of the players were here....but you can be damn sure Fulmer, Cut and Chavis remember 2001. Vols win this game 1986 Sugar Bowl Style!!

Volnut writes:

Yeah IP you're right no soph has ever won the hardware but to exculde Tebow for the fact he's a soph is crazy.

I lost interest in the heistman when CW won it.. and considered it a joke but hands down the best player in CFB this year has been the young man from UF. But then again that's just MHO.

Go Vols.. about time to start the tailgate and kill the laptop.... Here's hoping for a fine showing from The Boy's!!!!!!

rockytopron writes:

Fulmer bags the conservative calls and allows Cutcliffe to open up the offense in a "we got nothing to lose" style and the Vols defense smothers perriliux and win 38-17!

Go VOLS

LakeMaryFLVol writes:

May the orange checkerboard field turf rise up to meet our beloved Vols!...For those who will be there..
Make it known we out number them 2-1..Loud early Loud Often!!!...Taste Sugar young men!

RockyTopRosser writes:

I've busted out the bourbon in celebration of our trip to the Sugar Bowl and the party on Bourbon Street. Make your plans boys....we're gonna be rockin' in out Rocky Top style at the Sugar Bowl!

DennisVols writes:

We could talk about the stats that clearly show how UT is playing better than LSU right now, but the whiners would just point out the scores of the 3 losses UT had. We could talk about how scores really don’t matter only wins and losses, but the whiners would point out the lack of an SEC title since ’98. We could talk about how UT had just 12 starters returning, was replacing all 5 DB’s and yet managed to be the best team in the SEC East this year, but the whiners would point out how we almost lost to Vandy. We could talk about how LSU is going to lose Miles and Pelini following this game but that will only give the whiners an excuse for why UT actually won its first SEC title since ’98.
Facts:
1) UT has the best conference record in the SEC, yes LSU and GA have the same record but there are none better.
2) This team is better than most of us thought possible, including myself, following a 1-2 start.
3) Getting into the SEC Championship game had nothing to do with the scores of the Cal, Florida or Bama games. Only wins and losses count and UT won the games they had to win. The 9 is why we are in Atlanta, not the 3.

wjackson#226202 writes:

It's official, Les Miles is going to Michigan. Wow, What kind of impact do you think this will have on his team today?????

wjackson#226202 writes:

It's official Now he is staying at LSU. OK, I am glad we don't have any of these distractions.

imnotwithphil writes:

LazhilUTDelt - However they were distracted during practice...which is good news for us!

dgarland1#214014 writes:

Go play like you hair is on fire, and forget the rest.

killerb2121#239845 writes:

H I T S O M E B O D Y!!!!

govols

EglinVOL writes:

Come on Offense!!! GO VOLS!!!

LSUfan writes:

We will beat you with our second, maybe third, string QB...at least Ga would have been a challenge. By the way, orange is the ugliest color I have ever seen. Geaux Tigers!

EglinVOL writes:

Keep getting pushed back for 25 yards and we'll see buddy....

EglinVOL writes:

Well said tngeoff... GO VOLS. It's 8 a.m. and the house is a rockin with a 1 point lead!!! Make my Sunday VOLS!!!

EglinVOL writes:

Thanks tngeoff. And I happen to like the all ORANGE uni's...GO VOLS!!!

UTvols12342000 writes:

Wow, our defense is playing spectacular!

Where is the offense? If we can move the ball, we take over this game. I see LSU wearing down to the SUPERIOR Tennessee team I am witnessing.

i can already hear the "yeah, but its our backup...blah blah"

GO VOLS!!

EglinVOL writes:

Another nice post by UTvols12342000. My thoughts exactly....GO VOLS!!!

EglinVOL writes:

That's allright. Lets go big O! GO VOLS!!!

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