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AP Top 25 College Football
After a lengthy absence, the national college football spotlight is once again shining on Knoxville.
A day after beating Georgia State 51-13 to open the season 2-0, Tennessee climbed back into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2008. A few moments later, ESPN confirmed that it is taking its popular college football roadshow to the UT campus for Saturday's game against Florida (TV: ESPN, 6 p.m.). College GameDay hasn't been to Knoxville since 2004.
If fans were geared up before for Saturday's meeting against the 18th-ranked Gators (2-0), Sunday's news only amplified the hype.
"We've been talking about (the Florida game) since January," said Tennessee linebacker Jordan Williams. "That's the one everyone wants. It's the one fans want, too."
The Vols are ranked No. 23 in the AP poll, but did not crack the Top 25 in the coaches' poll, which tends to be more conservative about booting teams out of the rankings after a loss. Florida moved up to No. 18 after coming back to beat Texas A&M 20-17 in College Station.
The Vols started the 2008 season ranked No. 18, but quickly fell out of the polls after a season-opening loss to UCLA. Tennessee replaced coach Phillip Fulmer after that season's 5-7 finish. In the three years since, Tennessee has never won more than seven games and has never been ranked — until today.
The Florida-Tennessee game opened as a pick'em — that is, an even line — in some of the early odds posted by offshore sports books Sunday. After a sluggish opening win against Bowling Green and a listless first half at Texas A&M, the Gators bounced back to post the first come-from-behind second half win in coach Will Muschamp's tenure. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was sacked eight times, but still managed to complete 13 of 16 passes for 162 yards.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray was sharp against Georgia State, completing 18 of 20 for 310 yards. His quarterback efficiency rating is now fifth-best in the nation.
Bray will likely get plenty of airtime on ESPN, which has three hours to fill in GameDay's new format. The show begins Saturday at 9 a.m. on ESPNU before switching to ESPN at 10 a.m.
The location of the set on campus has not yet been announced, but it should be a place able to accommodate plenty of fans. Backdrops of cheering fans and creative signs are a halllmark of the show.
The show has visited Knoxville seven times, most recently on Oct. 2, 2004, when Auburn beat the Vols 34-10. Overall, the Vols are 2-5 when GameDay is on campus.
Chris Fowler is the show's straight man and ringleader. He's joined by analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack.
Fowler said in his Twitter feed that the show had planned to go to Fayetteville for the Arkansas-Alabama game, but the Razorbacks' upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe caused the change in plans.
"Hey Rocky Top, I'll see you this weekend baby!" Howard wrote in a tweet on Sunday. "We haven't been there in a minute and we missed ya!"
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.