Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth.
I bet you didn't know the circus (a.k.a. Tennessee vs. Georgia) was coming to town. The two might not seem like the same, but the Vols' showdown with the 'Dawgs definitely resembles your average Ringling Brothers' show.
Don't believe me?
o The bearded lady: David Pollack
Don't take this comparison at face value. You must understand that Georgia's star defensive end is just a freak and a odd mixture of personality.
The All-American from Snellville, Ga., politely turned down an opportunity to appear in Playboy's All-American Team for moral reasons, but also has the attitude to propel him to SEC Player of the Year again.
On Saturday, UT's offensive can point and stare all they want, but one of them will have to block Pollack if Casey Clausen wants to remain in one part.
o The tiger show: Tennessee's defense
In two weeks, the Vols' defense has jumped through every flaming hoop opposing offensives have offered.
But the taming process isn't a surprise, according to UT junior linebacker Kevin Burnett. Apparently Tennessee's young defenders haven't mastered the system yet.
At Tuesday's media outing, the co-captain said some of his teammates often act like they know the system during the weekdays and then get confused during the games and come to him on the field and ask what's going on.
Missed tackles has also been a glaring result of the Vols' inexperience. But according to UT linebacker Robert Peace, it's not learning the system that's causing the busted plays.
"It's just an attitude," he said. "It's not something I think you can coach, and it's not something that you can teach; it's just something that you have to want to be."
Burnett said he couldn't agree more.
"Tackling is an attitude," he said. "It's saying, 'OK, you've got the ball now and I'm gonna' try to take your head off."
So the defense seems to be aware of its problem, but unless it finds the attitude Saturday, Georgia quarterback David Greene and wideout Fred Gibson will give them some more hoops to jump through.
o The disappearing act: Derrick Tinsley
If you see the Vols' junior wide receiver on a milk carton, don't be surprised.
Tinsley seemed to be blossoming into one of Tennessee's more potent weapons at the end of last season after switching from tailback to wideout. But this season, he's gotten lost in the receiving corps and hasn't recorded any catches or rushing yards.
The Marietta, Ga., native would love nothing more than to make his season debut against the Bulldogs, but with young receivers Jayson Swain, Chris Hannon and Bret Smith emerging, the window seems to be closing. After receiving an injury against the Tigers, Tinsley is probable for Saturday's game.
"It's a little bit discouraging," Tinsley said. "But it's happening for a reason - I don't know why yet - but I feel like its gonna' come around."
o The juggling act: The Volunteer backfield
UT running backs coach Woody McCorvey has a problem.
Throw in the consistent starter that's had problems breaking tackles as of late (Cedric Houston), put in the touchdown machine who can't turn the corner (Jabari Davis) or use the other guy - the one with the attitude (Gerald Riggs).
Riggs' past off-the-field problems have been well-documented, but the talented sophomore could be the answer the anemic running game needs.
Houston and Davis are talented enough to start at any SEC school (OK, maybe not Auburn), but for whatever reason, they aren't getting the extra yards the Vols are accustomed to.
Riggs may have attitude, but as with the defense, maybe it's what the running game needs.
o Under the Big Top: Neyland Stadium
What exactly was the last big game Tennessee won?
Florida? No, the Gators will be 3-6 in a month. Arkansas in 2002? No, the Razorbacks weren't even ranked and it took six overtimes to squeak out a victory. Michigan in 2001? No, the Wolverines weren't that good or that fast.
Florida in 2001? Bingo.
It's been two years since the Vols proved themselves on a national stage, against a quality opponent.
UT has lost three in a row to the 'Dawgs and both teams need the win to get to the SEC Championship Game. It doesn't get bigger than this.
Even Fulmer sees it.
"Good teams play well in big games," Fulmer said. "We're still growing. If we can gain that consistency, we'll be able to play with almost anybody in the country."
The Vols get their chance Saturday - let the show begin.
- Glenn LaFollette is a senior in broadcasting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Circus Act: Vols need Georgia game for title
Published: Thu Oct 09, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:28 p.m.