Devil's Advocate (UT)
Montario Hardesty

Posted Oct 23, 2009


With Tennessee coming off a big win over Georgia and an open date week, the Vols should be at their peak - mentally and physically - when they face Alabama Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Conversely, the Tide is playing its eighth game in eight weeks. So, while Bama is sucking wind, Tennessee is getting its second wind after practicing just two times last week.

"It's a long season," Vol head coach Lane Kiffin explained. "We work our guys extremely hard, especially in preseason. So many young guys are playing - freshmen that are used to high school seasons being much shorter. They came back (from the time off) refreshed.... I think it worked great."

Defensive end Chris Walker thinks so, too. He believes the added rest has Tennessee's energy and enthusiasm levels soaring.

"I think the momentum has gotten greater for us," he said. "The attitude we came out with in practice during the bye week was really special - something I haven't seen since I've been around here. From the attitude, you would think we were preparing for Alabama that week. It was really special to see our work ethic that week and see the momentum continue."

As much as the bye week did for Tennessee's physical health, the 45-19 blowout of Georgia did even more for the team's mental health. After a 2-3 start, the Vols desperately needed to dump the Dawgs. The fact they did so in emphatic fashion re-invigorated Tennessee's players. It's as if their record is 0-0, instead of 3-3.

"The feeling's in the air again," linebacker Rico McCoy said. "Guys are excited. Guys are back into it. It's another win for pride in the program. We're on a roll and we want to finish up with as many wins as possible."

Although Alabama's home-field advantage at Bryant-Denny Stadium is considerable, Tennessee's players are not intimidated. After all, they went to The Swamp earlier this season and played Florida off its feet before losing 23-13. That performance should help the Vols as they make their second road trip of the season.

"I definitely think it will just because we went down and played Florida when they were number one in front of a hostile crowd in Gainesville," Walker said. "It'll be the same thing going down to Tuscaloosa with them No. 1. I think that helps us get the game-day atmosphere."

As was the case against Florida, Tennessee's game with Bama will be nationally televised. That adds a little more incentive for the Vols. As Walker put it: "We're really excited about getting the chance to showcase what we have on the national scene playing the No. 1 team in the country."

Whereas the Vols went into the Florida game thinking they could hang with the best teams in the country, they go into the Bama game KNOWING they can.

"I think we're a little bit more excited about this game just because it is our biggest rival," Walker said. "I think this is something we're really ready for."


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