An inconvenient option

Perhaps you're wondering: Why did Tennessee schedule a wishbone team like Air Force, when everyone else on the slate utilizes the I formation or the spread option? Well, it certainly wasn't the head coach's idea.

When the NCAA decided last winter to expand the schedule from 11 games per team to 12 in 2006, Tennessee found itself in scramble mode trying to line up an opponent for Sept. 9.

"We didn't want to play the game particularly," Phillip Fulmer said this week. "The problem we had was going to the 12th game and finding an opponent that fit the same time slot."

Because Air Force is Saturday's Game 2 foe, Tennessee must spend this week preparing for an offense it won't face again all season. That's kind of like spending $1,000 on a tuxedo you'll only wear on your wedding day, then hang in the back of the closet.

"I don't think anybody's anxious to play against the flex-bone, wishbone or veer, then the next week you're playing another spread team or whatever," Fulmer said. "If we could've found somebody else to play, we would've."

Although Game 1 foe California and Game 3 foe Florida use some elements of the spread option, their offenses bear no similarity to the ground-hugging option attack Air Force utilizes. In fact, Fulmer doesn't remember the last time his team faced an attack similar to the Falcons'.

"We haven't seen one quite like Air Force in a while," he said.

Knowing Air Force was on this fall's schedule, Fulmer said his team "spent some practice time in the spring and in fall camp working on the option stuff." Not much time, though.

Although Tennessee already has played a game and Air Force has not, Fulmer doesn't see that as a big advantage. After all, the Falcons have had a chance to scout the Vols; the Vols have not had a chance to scout the Falcons.

"There's advantages and disadvantages," the UT coach said. "They've seen us, so they know what we do. But having played and gotten used to the speed of the game and the crowd is an advantage for us. It goes both ways."

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