Vols are due

Given the rash of upsets in Southeastern Conference football this fall, the obvious question is: Might unranked Tennessee join the fun Saturday night against No. 7 Alabama?

Certainly, that would be a shocker but shockers have been relatively commonplace in SEC play this fall. Vanderbilt stunned Ole Miss at Oxford in Week 3. South Carolina shocked top-ranked Bama in Week 6. Mississippi State stunned No. 22 Florida at Gainesville and Kentucky upended No. 10 South Carolina in Week 7.

"I've seen a lot of guys get upset," Vol tailback Tauren Poole noted this week. "It just goes to show that any given Saturday anything can happen."

Perhaps this will be that "any given Saturday" for Tennessee. The Vols (2-4 overall, 0-3 SEC) are given virtually no chance against defending national champ Bama (6-1, 3-1). Still, they played sixth-ranked LSU to a 16-14 loss in Baton Rouge three weeks ago and think they can hang with the Tide.

"I believe we can play with anybody if we play our best football and stay focused on what we can do," Poole said. "(Last) weekend kind of cleared it up for me. I know a lot of my teammates watched games, and it cleared it up for all of us. If you come out with a great mentality and you're ready to play - not caring about stats or how big they are or how fast they are - but just focus on what we have to do, it can get done."

Junior quarterback Matt Simms echoed Poole's sentiments.

"We were in same situation when we went down to LSU and almost won that game," he said. "So, we kind of are part of those upsets already, by showing we can play high-level SEC football. The key is to keep ready and show we are a good football team. It's a big chance for an upset for us."

Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz agrees that all of the upsets around the SEC this fall provide extra encouragement for the Vols.

"Definitely," he said. "When you see Alabama's been beaten by South Carolina and you go around the league and see how many upsets there have been, it lets you know that anything can happen.

"Alabama is a great team, disciplined and well coached. We'll have to be on top of our game - play to the best of our ability to have a chance - but we're really looking forward to the opportunity."

After 3 1/2 seasons playing in the SEC, senior defensive end Chris Walker has seen a lot of upsets. There usually is a common thread, he believes.

"That just lets us know that every day in the SEC you've got to come ready to play," he said. "Upsets can happen in the SEC. We know that, and I think Alabama knows that. We know that there is an opportunity for us to win that game."

Historically speaking, Tennessee is due to post an upset. The Vols haven't knocked off a top-10 team since 2006, when they clobbered ninth-ranked California 35-18 in Game 1 and trounced No. 10 Georgia 51-33 in Game 6.

Tennessee's best bet to win Saturday night would be to catch Alabama flat but that is highly unlikely. The Vols put a real scare into the Tide before losing last year's game 12-10 in Tuscaloosa. Moreover, Bama is still miffed after suffering that upset loss to South Carolina just two weekends ago.

Nick Saban's talented Tide doesn't beat itself, so an opponent has to play a near-perfect game to prevail. That's what South Carolina did two weeks ago.

"They really were energized," Tennessee head man Derek Dooley said of the Gamecocks. "They broke tackles. They made one-handed catches. They made catches with a guy in perfect position pulling the jerseys.

"I didn't see Alabama playing poorly. I saw a team really playing a great game."

That raises another question: Is Tennessee capable of playing a great game Saturday night?


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