Vols 'shockingly stagnant'

The Tennessee football team should finish in the top 25 nationally this year ... by a whisker.

That's the opinion expressed in The Sporting News' College Football preview issue, which called the 2003 Vols ''shockingly stagnant'' but still ranks the 2004 team 24th among the 117 Div. 1-A programs. In a segment called ''Don't Believe The Hype,'' TSN lists Clemson, Kansas State, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee as schools who are being overrated in preseason.

''The Vols weren't themselves the past two years -- and that was with a veteran quarterback,'' the magazine notes. ''What happens now that Casey Clausen is gone? The question wasn't answered during spring practice. And if the running game doesn't pick up, the new quarterback will be even more miserable.''

Not exactly a glowing endorsement, huh?

Besides Tennessee at No. 24 The Sporting News ranks SEC powerhouse Georgia No. 1, LSU No. 4, Florida No. 12, Auburn No. 19, South Carolina No. 31, Alabama No. 34, Arkansas No. 40, Ole Miss No. 53, Kentucky No. 73, Vanderbilt No. 80 and Mississippi State No. 82.

In case you're wondering, UT's non-conference foes don't get a lot of respect. TSN ranks Notre Dame No. 49, Nevada-Las Vegas No. 83 and Louisiana Tech No. 92.

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