Vols due letdown?

Believe it or not, there's a problem associated with playing a near-flawless football game: You're likely to suffer a letdown the following week.

That's true of every team, including the Tennessee Vols, who are coming off a near-flawless performance in last Saturday's 35-14 drubbing of No. 12 Georgia as they prepare for this Saturday's game at Mississippi State.

Recent history suggests the Vols will be anything but flawless this weekend.


1999: Tennessee hammers No. 24 Notre Dame 38-14. A week later the third-rated Vols lose 28-24 at unranked Arkansas.

2000: Tennessee annihilates Louisiana-Monroe 70-3. A week later the 11th-ranked Vols lose 38-31 to an unranked LSU team that was coming off a loss to UAB.

2001: Tennessee upsets No. 2 Florida 34-32 at The Swamp in Steve Spurrier's final home game. A week later the second-rated Vols lose 31-20 to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

2003: Tennessee beats No. 17 Florida 24-10 in Gainesville. A week later the eighth-ranked Vols need an overtime to subdue unranked South Carolina 23-20 in Knoxville.

2004: Tennessee trounces South Carolina 43-29 in Columbia. A week later the ninth-rated Vols lose 17-13 at home to unranked Notre Dame.

2006: Tennessee races to a 35-0 lead and hammers ninth-ranked California 35-18. A week later the 11th-ranked Vols have to hold for dear life to nip Air Force 31-30.

Coming off their big defeat of Georgia, the 2007 Vols may be primed for an equally big letdown.

Although Tennessee expended an awful lot of energy and emotion last weekend against Georgia, head coach Fulmer believes the Vols' level of focus and enthusiasm will not drop this weekend.

"It should be better," he said. "Their confidence should be better. They know they're capable of playing well. They played well at different points in the season on both sides of the ball; they just had those plays that ended up being really negative. We eliminated those the last ball game, and now it's back to being a confident, aggressive football team."

Although Fulmer expects his players to have plenty of energy and confidence this Saturday in Starkville, he still anticipates a tough game.

"Mississippi State is a bit different than Georgia, and in some ways a bigger challenge because of the experience they have upfront," the Vol coach said. "Georgia was a young offensive front – that's well documented – and they had some real difficulties there. State's a much more veteran football team, and we're playing on the road, although we've been a good road team."

The Vols have been a good road team, all right. In fact, Fulmer's record against Southeastern Conference foes is exactly the same on the road (44-14) as it is at home (44-14).

How's that for an incredible coincidence?

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