Devil's Advocate (Tennessee)

Football games aren't always won by the most talented team. Sometimes they're won by the most motivated team. And that bodes really well for Tennessee in Saturday's game at Ole Miss.

Coming off a 5-7 season in 2008, the Vols appeared mired in mediocrity when they staggered to a 2-3 start in 2009. Tennessee righted itself, however, and has played exceptional football since - trouncing Georgia (45-19), South Carolina (31-13) and Memphis (56-28) and losing a squeaker at then-top-ranked Alabama (12-10).

Now 5-4 overall and 2-3 in SEC play, the fired-up Vols are excited about the prospect of winning out and earning a mid-level bowl bid.

"We're not playing for an SEC championship but the way we practice and play you wouldn't tell that we're not playing for one," junior defensive end Chris Walker said. "Every day we try to play like a championship team, trying to be a championship team, because that's what we're going to be eventually around here."

Coming off a 9-4 record in 2008, Ole Miss was supposed to be a championship team this year. The Rebels have grossly underachieved, however. Like UT, they have a 2-3 conference record. Moreover, their 6-3 overall record includes two wins against Football Championship Subdivision teams that don't count toward bowl eligibility.

Whereas Ole Miss is a team that has wilted in the face of lofty expectations, Tennessee is a team that has resurrected itself after being given up for dead in September. Whereas the Rebels are looking to save face, the Vols are looking to finish with a flourish.

"Our guys play loose but, at the same time, we're disciplined," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "That's how we treat our guys - like professionals. Our guys don't play tight, and that's why they've played well for the most part.

"We don't ever make a game into a huge game. And that's why we don't experience letdowns. If you do that (create a must-win atmosphere) then you experience a letdown."

Reason No. 2 to pick Tennessee: Now that quarterback Jonathan Crompton has go-to receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore healthy, the Vols are making the kind of plays that stretch an opposing defense.

"We need to be explosive," Kiffin said. "We love running the ball - love grinding it out - but if we're going to be a championship team we've got to be explosive. We've got to make people scared that we can throw the ball downfield and make plays everywhere."

Reason No. 3 to pick Tennessee: The Vols play better on the road than they do at home. They gave top-ranked Florida a real battle before losing 23-13 in Gainesville and had top-ranked Alabama on the ropes before bowing 12-10 in Tuscaloosa.

"We like playing on the road in front of a hostile environment," Walker said. "I think our whole team gets fired up by stuff like that. People not liking us helps us play our best. We haven't gotten a road win but we've been there in two tight games on the road, so we're going to get it together this week."

Reason No. 4 to pick Tennessee: Assistant head coach Ed Orgeron was fired as the Rebels' head man just two years ago. You KNOW he'll have the Vols pumped for this game.

InsideTennessee.com Recommended Stories


  • Peyton Manning emerged alone atop yet another category in the NFL record book tonight vs the Niners, as he tossed touchdown #509 under the national spotlight of Sunday Night Football (NBC). (Photo…

  • Former USC and NFL running back LenDale White added tons of drama to what was a relatively quiet Homecoming weekend for the Trojans.

  • Here’s a way to watch football and improve your golf swing at the same time. In your living room (or on the range), practice the one-minute golf swing, as shown in this video. Set the timer on your…

  • Dr. Roto, like many others, can't believe Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (pictured above) passed for over 300 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in the same game. First time that's ever happened…

  • As soon as those winds fall off, get into the stand! I always tell people you can't kill them if you aren't out, but if you want to try and pick an opportune time – this is it.

Up Next


Tweets