Mike Strange: Vols getting back on the football map

Mike Strange
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray drops back for a pass in the first quarter against Georgia State at Neyland Stadium Saturday.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray drops back for a pass in the first quarter against Georgia State at Neyland Stadium Saturday. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Derek Dooley explains making the switch at kicker

None

For which team/coach is Saturday's game more of a must-win?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Being an elite college football program comes with a certain amount of media bling.

One telltale sign of Tennessee's decline came in the last year or so the Vols were dropped from Big & Rich's "Coming to Your City,'' the popular, high-energy intro to ESPN's College GameDay show.

All of a sudden there was no more "give me that Rocky Top Tennessee.'' TCU, I believe, got plugged in to the Vols' old slot in the montage.

This week, with Florida headed to Neyland Stadium, the Vols are climbing back on the college football map.

They popped up in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since UCLA dumped them in the opening week of the 2008 season.

And ESPN's College GameDay is indeed coming to our city Saturday for the first time since 2004.

"They've earned the right to get some of the attention they've been getting by how they've performed the last couple of weeks,'' coach Derek Dooley said Monday. "That's good.''

The players who talked with the media Monday all said the right things. Yes, they're glad to get national exposure. But it's not Kirk Herbstreit who will be scrambling to convert a third down.

"College GameDay being here doesn't help us beat Florida,'' said defensive lineman Daniel Hood.

The show originated in 1993. This is its eighth appearance in Knoxville. Only four schools have played host more often.

But the Vols haven't been relevant since the 2007-08 season when they played in SEC Championship Game and won the Outback Bowl.

"We have to give 'em a reason to come,'' said UT center James Stone.

There is a combination of reasons this week.

Give the Vols credit. They've been a highlight machine in wins over North Carolina State and Georgia State.

Give Florida credit. The Gators dug deep to come back and win at Texas A&M — College GameDay's home last Saturday.

And give Arkansas credit. If the Razorbacks hadn't been stunned by Louisiana-Monroe, Lee Corso would be donning a mascot head in Fayetteville on Saturday before an Alabama-Arkansas showdown.

Arkansas' near-historic plummet out of the top 25 also cleared a slot for Tennessee's return.

From the late 1980s until the mid-2000s Tennessee was a fixture in the rankings. It was an assumption.

Well, here's another sign of the times:

"We're finally ranked,'' junior Jacques Smith said Monday. "It was one of my personal goals coming into college.''

I'm sure that has been the goal of many a Vanderbilt or Kentucky player. It sounds odd coming from a Vol.

"If,'' said Dooley, "you're focused on being in the top 25 and not on what you need to do to be in the Top 25, then you're not going to be in the top 25.''

Dooley is wary of what he calls the "external clutter" this week. He hopes his team is mature enough to stay focused on an opponent it hasn't beaten since 2004, back in the days when College GameDay and the top 25 were standard perks.

"The best exposure you can get is to win,'' Dooley said.

"If you have GameDay out there and lay an egg, all that goes out the window.''

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 5

FeelVol writes:

Yea I think the ranking may be alittle premature, lets beat the Gators and then we can talk more seriously about where this season may be heading.Go Vols !!!

arkyvol writes:

enjoy it while we can. the schedule has georgia, mississippi state, bama, and carolina, back to back to back to back, all away except the toughest one. the vols will be lucky to pull one win out of that line up (but, so would 90% of the other d-1 teams). here's hoping. my heart says one thing, my head another.

Obligatory_Hendrix_Perm writes:

Im not sure there is one vol or gator fan that believes that the history between these two teams will have anything to do with the outcome saturday. This is not your older brothers tn/fl football game. This rivalry is only a shell of its former self. And the one difference that sticks out to me is that the scariest offensive players on the field will all be wearing orange.

CrankE writes:

"And give Arkansas credit."

Seriously? How about, "Give ULM credit."

Ranking in September means nothing. No excuses, just execute. Win.

GO VOLS!!!
CHOOT 'EM!!!

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to Obligatory_Hendrix_Perm:

Im not sure there is one vol or gator fan that believes that the history between these two teams will have anything to do with the outcome saturday. This is not your older brothers tn/fl football game. This rivalry is only a shell of its former self. And the one difference that sticks out to me is that the scariest offensive players on the field will all be wearing orange.

Truth spoken by OHP!!! This is the very first time Vol fans get to see Coach Derrick Dooley's brand of no huddle gun slinging FAST offense and 3-4 defense with monster linemen and attack attack attack LBs play an SEC team. The very first time we get to see a real test of Dooley Ball. Depth will come into play. How ready the backups are to give the starters oxygen is big. The biggest need for a win, however, is for the offensive line to hold against the lizzards pass rush and produce AND HOLD the gaps and seams for the Vols running game to advance. We will be hurtin if ball carriers are running up the backsides of their own blocking linemen. This game is on the offensive line, in the trenches, as it should be.

I predict Doolaide will be sold out across the Vol Nation. It'll be going for a premium price. Stock up while you can!!!

Go Vols! Go Dooley! Go SEC!
Smokey's Gonna HOOooowwwWWLLL!!!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features