tabs UT No. 3

Heading into the 2005 season Tennessee is the third-best team in the nation – but second-best in the Southeastern Conference -- according to the experts at

The popular website lists four SEC programs among the top eight nationally, led by LSU at No. 2. UT is No. 3, with Georgia No. 6 and Florida No. 8. The article, which is not bylined, notes that the listing is based on how good the teams are entering the season, not where they'll finish in the final national polls.

Here's what has to say about the Vols:

The skill players are among the best the program has seen in several years, and the defensive front seven will be unbelievable. There are issues on special teams and in the secondary, but the Vols won't be as bad in either area as they were last year. Eight starters (and that doesn't include LB Kevin Simon) return to a defense that will be among the best in America. If Simon's injured knee is fine, the front seven will finish among the top five in the country and will be one of the leaders in sacks and quarterback hurries. So crank up the pressure and jack up the expectations. This team can handle it. Relative strength: Defensive line Relative Weakness: Special teams. Star of the team: DT Jesse Mahelona, Sr. Key game: Sept. 17 at Florida

The top 10 is as follows:

1. Southern Cal

2. LSU

3. Tennessee

4. Miami

5. Ohio State

6. Georgia

7. Michigan 8. Florida

9. Texas

10. Virginia Tech

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