Game Day:Don't Kid Yourself…This Is Tennessee

Let the record reflect that a member of the SEC (South Eastern Conference) has won the last four BCS Championships, five of the last seven, and six of the 12 in its history. They also boast the most players drafted over the last five years (187), most players taken in the first round(39), and are repeatedly anointed the "Best Conference in College Football" title by those allegedly in the know.

What does all that mean? It means that in spite of rhetoric to the contrary, the 2010 Tennessee Volunteers play in an SEC venue, have SEC athletes and are an SEC opponent worthy of Oregon's coaches, players and fans respect.

Sure, Peyton Manning and Albert Haynesworth aren't running out of the tunnel Saturday night. Reggie White (RIP) and Tee Martin aren't suiting up. Nor will Erik Ainge, Carl Pickens or Willie Gault. But, this is a formidable opponent.

And there are over 100,000 people who'll tell you that very thing Saturday in Knoxville. However, those north of the Mason-Dixon line, not wearing pastel orange, and composing complete sentences, are speaking fear into the hearts of Duck fans everywhere.

Okay, that was a bit of a low-blow by way of a Southern stereotype and I told myself I wouldn't fall into such an easy and obvious trap, but what's done is done and there are no take-backs in College Football.

My point is that many of my friends, too many of my enemies, and far too many of the blowhards which whom I depend on for their uneducated opinions are pooh-poohing the Vols chances Saturday Night…and it scares me.

I understand it coming from the anti-Oregon sentiment, for they are predictably setting up a preemptive strike against any of the numerous potential outcomes. For instance:

Outcome A – Oregon wins a nail-biter against an "SEC bottom-feeder for whom the Ducks should've dismantled. They're no TCU!"

Outcome B – Oregon blows out that same "SEC bottom-feeder, merely doing what they were supposed to do, per every talking head found on any network, programming or literature marked with a buck-toothed rodent-head logo. They're no TCU!"

Outcome C – Oregon loses the game to the alledged SEC bottom-feeder, setting in motion a seismic wave of negativity for which the "haters" will gladly ride to the top of their ivory towers to shout; "they're not even TCU!"

But, for those somewhat in the know to be speaking so matter-of-fact about a somewhat recent national power, has left me with but a few options:

Do I ignore such speak in an effort to defuse the arrogance and overconfidence which almost always accompanies said commentary and will more than likely result in an undesired outcome?

Do I filter such speak, cherry-picking the cream of the crop to work in my favor while simultaneously discarding the land mines within, whose sole existence is to wreak havoc on my hopes and dreams?

Or do I believe it wholeheartedly, relax, expect the desired outcome, and enjoy the ensuing ride to victory like Tiger Woods in a bed full of…I mean strolling up the 18th hole at the Masters with a 6-shot lead?

I'm choosing the latter.

I know, if you know me or have read any of my material over the last few years, you're familiar with my usual cynical/borderline pessimistic point of view. I usually prepare myself for the worst in an effort to ward off any negative karma, while hoping for the best. Such perspective has produced a reasonable amount of positive results, yet usually does so at the expense of my attitude in general, a significant portion of my weekends, and a few of my lesser-known relationships (I'm sure they were no good for me anyway). But I'm going to do it. I'm going to buy into the hype surrounding this team. I'm going to ignore my reservations about Darron Thomas' inexperience and believe in his potential. I'm going to listen to the pundits' cries of mediocrity regarding Tennessee and ignore my scent of a trap. And I'm going to lay those 13-plus points, put my money where my mouth is, and trust that Oregon is the better, more experienced, more talented team.

But I'm also going to do so while maintaining a level of respect for the Vols. They do play in a premiere conference, do have premiere athletes, and will be playing in front of more than 100,000 rabid believers who'd love nothing more than to send me and my new-found optimism back to the junk drawer of my brain, where seldom-tested yet frequently failed theories go to die.

So while you're watching the game Saturday evening, think of me and my frame of mind. Think of me enjoying my experience. Enjoying my beverage, enjoying my surroundings, and most importantly enjoying Oregon's certain victory in Neyland Stadium that Southern Night. My friends, my blood pressure and my soon-to-be-good-night-sleep will thank you for it.

Go Ducks.

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