Vols to be 2nd or 3rd?

If the experts at collegefootballnews.com are correct, the Tennessee Vols should finish no worse than third nationally this season.

Richard Cirminiello and Pete Fiutak project the Big Orange No. 3 on their preseason top-10 lists, while Matthew Zemek tabs the Vols No. 2.

Here's what Cirminiello has to say:

3. Tennessee – This might be Phillip Fulmer's best Tennessee team since the 1998 edition, which ran the table and won the national championship. The early season road schedule—at Florida and LSU in successive weeks—is horrifying, but a split keeps them in the SEC and national title chase. Above all else, the Vols must stay healthy, something that didn't happen last year.

Here's what Fiutak had to say:

3. Tennessee - After a tumultuous off-season, the team has to be happy to get on the field. The Vols were rebuilding a bit last year and still were terrific. There's explosion on offense, NFL talent everywhere on defense, and a running back in Gerald Riggs Jr. who's on the verge of a monster year.

Zemek didn't offer team-by-team commentary. He merely listed UT No. 2, then suggested that a few key games could have a huge impact on the season. Noting that Auburn's come-from-behind defeat of LSU last fall catapulted Tommy Tuberville's team from a probable five-loss season to an unbeaten season, Zemek suggested the UT-Florida game could be similarly significant in 2005. Here's an excerpt:

"However, if Florida beats Tennessee on Sept. 17, we could see an Auburn-like effect where the Gators attain a level of confidence and trust so great that they metamorphose into a juggernaut. One game could have an earthshaking effect."

Interestingly enough, Fiutak ranks four SEC teams in his top 10 -- LSU (2nd), UT (3rd), Georgia (6th) and Florida (10th. Cirminiello sees three SEC teams in the top 10 -- UT (3rd), LSU (5th) and Florida (10th). Zemek has UT as the only SEC team in the top 10.

To check out the complete rankings, go to collegefootballnews.com and click on "Tuesday Question: The top ten teams going into the season ..."

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