After the Vols suffered a tough loss in Gainesville a little over a month

ago, most were quick to write the defending national champs out of this

season's national title picture.

But after Shaun Alexander displayed his talent before the energetic Swamp

crowd en route to a 40-39 upset of the Gators, many believe the Vols are

right back in the thick of things.

"Florida State made it with one loss," is the common cry one can hear from

the halls of Humanities to the docks of the Vol Navy. Even the players used

the Florida State scenario to sustain their motivation.

However, football seasons are not mathematical equations, and x + y/q does

not always equate to z.

Florida State is ranked still ranked No. 1, and even without wideout Peter

Warrick, the Seminoles have all the necessary tools to finish the season

undefeated and earn another shot at the title.

Right behind the Seminoles are the Penn State Nittany Lions of the Big Ten.

This is the only undefeated team ahead of the Vols that actually has a

chance of losing. Paterno's team still has to play both Michigan and

Michigan State, and you can be sure that his team will trip up against one

of those two teams.

However, the No. 3 and 4 spots are where the real trouble lies for the

Vols.

After a one-year rebuilding season, the Cornhuskers of Nebraska look to be

back in the form that won them back-to-back national championships earlier

in the decade.

Their toughest opponent, also-unbeaten Kansas State could give these

corn-fed bruisers a tough game, but playing in Lincoln will make all the

difference.

Last year Florida State was pushed into the national title game after

Kansas State lost in the Big 12 championship and Miami upset UCLA during

the final weekend of the season.

All the Vols can do is hope for a similar predicament this season, like a

Nebraska loss at the hands of Texas A&M in St. Louis.

However, the team that really threatens to keep the Vols out of the

national title game is Virginia Tech.

Before the season started, ESPN analyst Lee Corso actually picked the

Hokies to go undefeated and compete for the title. Say what?

Now it seems Corso was actually ahead of everyone else in the country.

The Hokies have an incredible defense (see Saturday's 62-0 beating of

Syracuse), an improving offense led by freshman standout Michael Vick and

the best special teams in the nation.

And let's not forget the undefeated teams that lie behind Tennessee in the

polls.

Kansas State once again looks strong while Mississippi State is cruising

right along. However the Bulldogs will face a tremendous challenge when

they travel to Alabama on Nov. 13. The game will most likely decide the SEC

West, and if State wins, they could actually pass the Vols in the

polls.

And finally, despite the fact they play in the MAC, Marshall has been able

to put together a 6-0 record. Behind Heisman candidate Chad Pennington, the

Herd will get enough national media attention to put them right in the

mix.

For the Vols, all of this information is secondary. All the team can do is

win the rest of their games and hope for another miracle.