"With a bowl game, you have to win it before you get there," says senior offensive tackle Arron Sears, a reserve in the 2004 Peach Bowl who has started 35 of 36 games game since. "You've got to be in top-notch shape. If you're not healthy and in shape going into that final game, you're going to be in trouble."
Being mentally prepared for a bowl game is just as important as being physically prepared. The Vols were ready on both fronts in their 2005 Cotton Bowl romp.
"All of the guys were really focused, watching film, lifting weights and running," Sears says. "The key was just being ready for the game."
Receiver Robert Meachem, a fourth-year junior, missed the 2004 Peach Bowl game due to a knee injury but played a significant role in the 2005 Cotton Bowl. Asked what he remembers as the key to UT's 38-7 romp, he answered without hesitation:
"Hard work. Hard work pays off," Meachem recalls. "We got to go home and have fun with our families, but when it was time to go back to work, that's what we did.