This response drew a mixture of groans and chuckles from the assembled media, since the series history shows UT winning the last 19 meetings. That isn't likely to help the Vols take the Commodores seriously, is it?
Well, Fulmer thinks it is ... if his players focus on the CLOSENESS of the games, rather than the outcome of the games. Four of the last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or less.
Tennessee won 41-0 in 1998, 38-10 in 1999 and 38-0 last year. However, the Vols were pushed to the limit before winning in 1995 (12-7), 1996 (14-7), 1997 (17-10) and 2000 (28-26).
''Two years ago, we win by two points, hanging on at the end,'' Fulmer noted.
If the Vols need additional motivation, the coach figures there should be plenty.
''It's an in-state rival and there's the motivation for us to finish on a very positive note,'' Fulmer said. ''That's real important to us. We can certainly expect Vanderbilt's best effort.''
Commodore head man Bobby Johnson promised his team will give a strong effort Saturday, even though its won-lost record is a major disappointment.
''The pleasing thing is our guys have worked hard all year,'' he said. ''When you're battling losses most weeks, it's sometimes hard to get guys to work hard and be dedicated. But they've worked hard and tried to get better, and I think we have gotten better.
''It's been a lot of fun coaching these guys ... a lot of fun coaching in the SEC and the great venues you have here. The losing hasn't been fun but it's been fun getting to know our players and trying to get this team better.''