Bounce-back time in Tennessee?

Coming off a disappointing 8-4 regular season that saw them miss the national rankings and a January bowl bid, the Tennessee Vols may be at their most vulnerable ... or they may be at their most dangerous.

Historically, the Big Orange seems to play its best when its back is to the wall. Consider:

• After going 7-5 in 1986, the Vols bounced back to go 10-2-1 in '87.

• After going 5-6 in 1988, they rallied to go 11-1 in '89.

• After going 8-4 in 1994, they rebounded to finish 11-1 in '95.

• After going 8-4 in 2000, they went 11-2 and just missed the national championship game in '01.

''We've been in this situation a few times before since I've been at the University of Tennessee, and responded well,'' offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said recently. ''I certainly expect us to respond well next year.''

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