UT tabbed No. 5 in East

HOOVER, Ala. - None of Tennessee's football players was born the last time the Vols lost to Kentucky. Still, reporters participating in SEC Media Days project the Big Orange to finish fifth in the Eastern Division this fall - a notch behind the Big Blue.

Kentucky's last victory in the series occurred in 1984. Tennessee has won 25 consecutive meetings since then. So, being picked to finish behind the Cats is pretty close to the ultimate insult. The Vols won't admit that, however ... at least not publicly.

"That's one of those things you don't want to put a lot of stock in," senior linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "We know that the only people who can help us are in the team room - the players and the coaches - so we're not looking at certain guys who say this is where we're going to finish."

Still, the Vols are getting a little weary of hearing how bad they're going to be in 2010.

"You want to play with a little chip on your shoulder," Reveiz said. "No one's giving us a lot of respect ... no one's counting on us to do much. But we know we're going to go out on Saturdays and be a scrappy team. We're going to play as hard as we can, and we'll see what the end result brings."

Perhaps the media did the Vols a favor. Historically, Tennessee plays best when the least is expected. Two of its strongest showings of 2009, for instance, came in games against top-ranked Florida and top-ranked Alabama. The Vols were given zero chance to win either time, yet they pushed the Gators in a 23-13 loss at Gainesville and played Bama to a 12-10 loss in Tuscaloosa.

"In the underdog role there's not a whole lot of pressure," Reveiz said. "That's fine."

Senior tight end Luke Stocker, a Kentucky native, also shrugged off the fifth-place prediction by SEC Media members.

"That's other people's projections of us and expectations of us," he said. "That's fine. We don't really pay much attention to that. We have our own expectations. That's the only thing that matters to us."

So what are those expectations?

"I promise you nobody in that locker room is picking us fifth in the East," Stocker said. "Every time we go out there we're expecting to win that game. If we didn't expect to win, we wouldn't even go out there."

SEC MEDIA PROJECTIONS

EASTERN DIVISION

(Total votes in parenthesis)

1. Florida (1,030)

2. Georgia (791)

3. South Carolina (790)

4. Kentucky (462)

5. Tennessee (450)

6. Vanderbilt (194)

WESTERN DIVISION

1. Alabama (1,034)

2. Arkansas (726)

3. Auburn (691)

4. LSU (653)

5. Miss. State (320)

6. Ole Miss (293)


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