"It depends on how we play," Pearl said earlier this week. "We weren't on CBS last year until the NCAA Tournament, so now we've got a chance to put our program on a national stage.
"But it's going to be a challenge because Ohio State has lost at the three toughest places in the country – Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin – and this is their first opportunity to play a ranked team at home."
Translation: Playing on CBS is a big deal if No. 16 Tennessee (13-3) gives a good account of itself against No. 5 Ohio State (13-3). It's not a big deal if the Vols suffer a lopsided loss.
Senior captain Dane Bradshaw figures, win or lose, playing on national television is a step forward for the Vol program.
"It's huge," he said. "When you're at home watching those games on CBS, those are the games you really dream about, especially as a kid growing up. To play against future NBA guys and a great program at Ohio State is a great opportunity."
Asked if playing on national TV creates more pressure or more excitement, Bradshaw paused thoughtfully before responding.
"A little excitement and anxiety, I guess," he said. "It's not so much nervousness. I think we're all nervous when the ball starts to tip off. That's human nature."
Pearl agreed to play Ohio State in Columbus this season for the same reason he agreed to play Texas in Austin last season – to get a return match in Knoxville.
"We went to Texas to get Texas to come back the following year," the Vol coach said. "Ohio State comes back the following year, and that ought to be pretty exciting for our fans. They (Buckeyes) have got about four or five lottery picks on that team."
Pearl says Ohio State reminds him of two previous Vol opponents.
"Talent-wise, they're like North Carolina," he said. "As far as style of play, they do a lot of what Butler does with their ball-screen stuff. They run a great ball-screen offense."
The comparisons to North Carolina and Butler do not bode well for Tennessee. The Vols lost to both teams.