Don't forget Air Force

So much has been said about Tennessee's Sept. 2 opener with Cal and its Sept. 16 game with Florida that you'd think the Vols have an open date in between. Not so. Tennessee faces an Air Force team Sept. 9 that might be better than fans are expecting.

Like Tennessee, Air Force had a losing record (4-7) last season. But, like the Vols, the Falcons were a few plays away from winning several more games. Pete Fiutak puts it this way in today's lead story at

"As bad as last season's 4-7 campaign might have been, Air Force lost to Wyoming by one, at Utah by three, at Navy by three, and against Army by three. A right bounce or big play here or there, and the Falcons could just as easily have been 7-4. The hope is for things to tighten up all the way around and force those one or two positive plays that Air Force used to make when it was winning on a consistent basis."

Sounds like the same sermon UT's Phil Fulmer has been preaching, doesn't it?

Falcon head coach Fisher DeBerry is known for his ground-hugging running game but he may open up the air attack a bit since he has a top-notch passer this season.

"Quarterback Shaun Carney is well on his way to being the greatest passer in the DeBerry era," Fiutak writes, "but he has to get the ground game back to the point where it can hang 300 yards a game on anyone. It only hit the 300-yard mark once last year."

Recruiting to Air Force makes recruiting to Tennessee seem like a cake walk. The Falcons will be much smaller and much slower than the Vol players they face on Sept. 9. DeBerry has grown comfortable with the underdog role, however. As Fiutak notes:

"Talent-wise, this isn't DeBerry's best team, but there aren't any problems he hasn't dealt with before. If Carney can take the next step up in his ability to run the attack, and if some reliable receivers and game-breaking running backs can emerge, and if Bobby Giannini and the veteran secondary can slow down the better passing teams just a little bit, then a winning season is more than possible."

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