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Bearcats Breakfast 9.7.11

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Ever walked into an environment where everybody disliked you. Or at least, if they didn't dislike you, they didn't particularly care for you to succeed.

Maybe an in-law function right after you made a bad, public mistake or got laid off. Maybe as a salesman walking into a shop when your contracted mechanic jacked up the transmission trying to fix an oil leak. Or maybe that's every day when you go to work.

The feeling changes your mood. It changes how your body works. It changes your confidence.

Now, put 105k in-laws in that room. (Sorry, if some of you just passed out from fear)

Welcome to Neyland Stadium.

This will almost certainly be the largest crowd UC has played in front of in its recent history. Oklahoma in 2007 will be the next closest. You can blast Rocky Top from the speakers at The Nipp all you want, these kids will not respond the same when they walk through the checkered end zone. That may be good. That may be bad.

You have an idea which players will respond well, but not a great one.

"You never really know them until they are in those types of situations," Butch Jones said.

I went around and asked some of the players yesterday what the most intimidating atmosphere they have ever played in was and how it affected them. Most of them claimed the Oklahoma game, a 52-26 defeat in Norman. Though, there were some others.

Here are some responses:

DJ Woods:

"Probably at Oklahoma. That was the biggest stadium I played at. Tennessee's might be a little bit bigger. Again, I don't think about intimidating places. A football field is a football field."

JK Schaffer:

"That ride up the hill into Morgantown when they are on both sides of you just flicking you off and throwing stuff at the bus, I wouldn't' say intimidating. I laugh at it, I think it's awesome, I love it. Also, Oklahoma, my freshman year, just three hours of 'Boomer! Sooner!'

"It gives me some energy; it doesn't make me lock up or anything. I enjoy playing in those environments."

Drew Frey:

"Personally the most intimidating atmosphere I have ever played at was at Oklahoma. It was pretty intense and exciting. Personally, I love playing in those environments. I kind of tune out the noise. When you are playing in big games you either step up your game or get run over. I feel like as a team we are excited to step up to the challenge and be mentally and physically prepared for the game."

Derek Wolfe:

"Most intimidating atmosphere was my freshman year at Oklahoma. I was 18 years old. It was my first time ever flying. I jumped offsides...on like the second or third play. It was so loud and they were doing the 'Sooner Boomer' and it was just like, whoa. That was fun, though. It was a great experience.

Another hostile environment was Fresno and I answered well. I like being called out. I just go out and play better. They were calling me a big hillbilly and talking about my tattoo saying it was my baby picture on my arm. It was pretty funny.

WVU is really hostile. I got a full beer can thrown at me my freshman year in overtime. There was full beer cans flying out of the stands, coach (Brian) Kelly was screaming at us to keep our helmet on."

Avoiding an early deficit because the team is awestruck will probably be the biggest challenge. Once the game gets going, it's all about football.

Let's eat...

--- I talked about the Tennessee spin a little bit yesterday and a UT columnist decided to rip on UC and refer to them as "still C-USA."

It's funny, because I would probably refer to Tennessee as "barely SEC." When was the last time they won the SEC Championship? 1998.

How many BCS bowl games have the Bearcats played in since the last time the Vols even won the East Division in 2007? That would be two.

Having covered SEC football before, I know all about the SEC arrogance and it is part of why the rest of the country holds so much disdain for some of the programs. But there is nothing worse than the combination of ignorance and arrogance. The inability of a school like UT to look in the mirror and see its own faults, only assuming superiority by affiliation. And that is what we have with this piece attacking UC's credentials. 

--- Here's a look inside the mind/sidelines of the what Tennessee fans are happy/upset about from the Montana game. They are all about to flip their Rocky Tops over the lack of a running game.

--- I thought Doc hit the nail on the head with his column today on the importance of the Tennessee game. At the end of the day, this is a fan base game.

A win or loss will only minimally affect UC's chances of making a BCS Bowl, only due to momentum and confidence. The team could play UT close and end up 4-1 entering Big East play and feel great about itself.

They can sweep the Big East and Jones will have a secure future in Clifton. 

They can win at Tennessee and fall apart in the Big East and questions will remain about the program.

But a win in Knoxville will re-ignite the fan base. It will remind UC fans (at least those with short-term memory loss) how much fun college football can be. It will pack Nippert again.

"A couple years ago we had that," Zach Collaros said of a stadium sold out every game. "We are trying to get it back to that way. When Nippert is packed, it rocks."

I've been accused before of using the phrase "signature win" too often. Coaches have told me the phrase is overrated. When you are pandering to high school kids, however, I refuse to believe a signature win like one at Tennessee doesn't mean as much to a teenager as holding the hottest girl in school on your arm at prom.

The first signature win for Jones would go a long way to building a throng of believers in his system in Clifton. Fair or unfair, no opponent on the schedule this year offers the same pizzazz as a trip into SEC country.

--- FWIW, Pat Forde thinks Jones and company will pull off the upset. (No. 19)

--- Bill Koch with a great story on former LaSalle standout Ben Martin, who plays for Tennessee and is recovering from two knee surgeries. 

--- In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon I posted some news, notes and conversations from the day spent down at UC. I thought Wolfe gave some interesting analysis of the evolution of the defense this year, in particular the lack of finger-pointing or screaming at each other during adverse situations.

--- A story on Tennessee nickel DB Eric Gordon and the important role he will play against UC's spread. 

--- Hey, look over here! Basketball starts in about two months. Here's a Q and A with Mick Cronin. 

--- Some randomness....

--- How about those strong Moeller Crusaders. Eric Surkamp with a win for San Diego and Andrew Brackman called up by the Yankees. 

--- Texas is changing their speed limits to 75 and getting rid of all nighttime speed limits. I'm just glad they finally understand and embrace how fast everyone wants to get the heck out of Texas. 

--- Lots of love showing up for the Lions these days. I'm on board. I like Detroit to make the playoffs as well. 

--- Top 10 best rock movies. This is Spinal Tap comes in at No. 4 and not No. 1. That alone dings the credibility of this list. 

--- Underrated 90s tunes week continues and this one goes out to Dan Hoard, who told me this was one of this favorite rock songs. I'd have to concur, quality. And considering this whole week was initiated by the Temple of the Dog reunion, only seems fitting. 

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