Enjoy the scenery, but it's nothing more than game No. 2
There's a lot of folks worked up over this upcoming UC and Tennessee tilt and that's a good thing for the Bearcats.
Provident Travel sold out a bus trip and many are making the four-hour (depending on how many fireworks you buy in Jellico) drive to Knoxville to watch UC face an SEC opponent.
My wife's even fired up--particularly at me, because I was a day late in trying to secure her a spot on the previously mentioned bus. She did most of her undergrad work at Tennessee, then finished up at UC.
She's now a Bearcat and is looking forward to watching them take down a team that used to pack 100,000 plus at Neyland Stadium.
When we were in college, she came up for a UC game against Rutgers in the early 80s. I mentioned to her the crowd of 15,000 or so wasn't bad.
Having taken in several games at Rocky Top U., she looked at me like I had three eyes.
Attendance-wise, UC's not on the same scale of Tennessee yet, but things are evening out in terms of football.
As for the crowd, it's the only thing to do that day in the entire state and it is the state school. Knoxville has no pro sports, so a Volunteer home game is a big deal. No other school in the state has that same following. The rest struggle to maintain fans.
Where UC can compete is on the field. That's exactly why I think this game is no big deal.
clobbered in 1992 by the Vols 40-0.
Prior to that, the two schools hadn't met since 1942 when Tennessee
blistered the Bearcats 34-12.
I wasn't on the radio crew when Tim Murphy coached, but covered them close enough to know him pretty well.
Back then, the picture of UC merely playing at Neyland Stadium was displayed proudly in his office and was used as a recruiting tool.
Johnny Majors was still Tennessee's coach, with future SEC coaches Phil Fulmer and David Cutcliffe as assistants. Heath Shuler was the Tennessee quarterback before going on to a mediocre NFL career and then politics.
UC then had no conference or bowl ties. "Hanging" with a quality opponent was considered good (UC had begun the season with a 24-20 loss to Penn State at Nippert).
A year later, a representative from the Poulan Weedwacker Independence Bowl would come to look at Murphy's team that finished 8-3 and left unimpressed when about "15 and change" showed up for a game against Memphis.
That's how far UC's come. In the recent BCS race, the Bearcats have been and the Vols have faltered.
Back in the day, Tennessee's archrival was Alabama. They didn't much like Georgia either.
(Courtesy of www.frumpzilla.com)
Now, UT's hired Dave Hart from Alabama as their AD and their coach is the son of the legendary Vince Dooley from Georgia. At least one of the UGA's must be rolling in his grave!
Enough embellishing, what about the game?
I don't think for a moment that UC will put up 72 on Tennessee or that Tennessee will smoke the Bearcats 40-zip again.
Regardless of recent changes, the Vols still attract top notch talent and their atmosphere will be the best UC will see all year.
However, the Vols are still young and the coach still doesn't have the track record that the folks around the Smokies are used to. (He is to be commended though for lasting longer than noted scoundrel Lane Kiffin.)
Tennessee struggled to 6-7 last season (yes, they sadly played a bowl game with a .500 record). If not for winning all of their November games, they wouldn't have even got that far. Let the record show, the November schedule of Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky wasn't exactly "murderer's row" by SEC standards.
oldest son is getting a Master's degree at UAB and works with their football team. The Blazers were sub .500 in 2010 also, but took the Volunteers to double overtime before falling 32-29 last season.
In the loss, they outgained Tennessee on the ground and through the air.
I watched several of UAB's games and saw them in practice recently. I also watched several of Tennessee's games.
Based on what I see (which won't get me on ESPN Gameday anytime soon because I'm not a pretty boy or girl and won't wear a stinky mascot head) UC's talent, at the very least, is on par with Tennessee's.
Personally, they're better than UAB and Tennessee.
So, as big of a win as it sounds, UC should approach this game with the attitude that Tennessee should be in awe of them, and not vice versa. (Much like South Florida should look at Notre Dame in the rear view mirror.)
Kenbrell Thompkins should have a fun day. This is the team that sidelined his college career by a year because they wouldn't release him from his scholarship.
Kiffin was able to bolt in the dark of night, but Thompkins was held
contractually hostage by the unfair policies of college athletics.
I look forward to Zach Collaros and KT hooking up in the creamsicle checkerboard endzone.
forward to Isaiah Pead chewing up yards while Vol fans are searching
frantically for that flask of Jack Daniel's they snuck in.
I look for a routine win, a small dosage of hillbilly music in between, and all eyes forward on bigger and better games.
Silence the banjos!