Vol duo underrated?

Auburn's Carnell ''Cadillac'' Williams (1,104) and Ronnie Brown (845) rushed for a combined 1949 yards this season, earning recognition as the top running tandem in college football. All but overlooked was the fact Tennessee's Gerald Riggs (1,005) and Cedric Houston (943) have been just as productive, combining for 1948 yards.

Why didn't the UT duo get more recognition?

• Riggs and Houston aren't as flashy as Williams and Brown.

• Riggs and Houston don't have colorful nicknames like ''Cadillac.''

• Riggs and Houston don't play for an unbeaten team ranked in the top three nationally.

• Riggs and Houston didn't play particularly well in 2003, so they had a lot of ground to make up in 2004.

Naturally, Riggs has his own thoughts on the matter.

''When you look at where we were in that category, you kinda wonder why we haven't gotten as much attention,'' he mused. ''But Auburn was undefeated, and that's their big story. Those guys (Williams and Brown) pretty much carried their team the last few years. When you look at it, you don't get too upset about it just because of the company you're in.''

Riggs' days as an obscure back probably ended when he shredded Auburn's vaunted defense for a career-high 182 yards in the recent SEC Championship Game. Is he a marked man now?

''I don't think anybody looks at me any differently,'' he said, amused by the question.

As for his success combining with Houston to provide a 1-2 punch at tailback, Riggs suspects the Vol duo has shown observers what they've been waiting years to see.

''I believe they saw what everybody has been expecting from us,'' he said. ''I'm pretty sure every coach we play against is going to say, 'These guys are explosive. They can take one the distance on you if you're not playing to the level you need to play at.' ''

If Tennessee is to beat Texas A&M in the upcoming Cotton Bowl game, the Vols' 1-2 tailback punch must play well.

''We've got to make plays, be ready to go,'' Riggs said. ''If you give us an inch of confidence, sooner or later, we're going to break one.''

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