Not one individual on the Austin Peay roster is familiar with 100,000-plus crowds or the physicality SEC defenses so often show.
Governor fans clad in red won't make a dent in the endless sea of orange.But what first-year head coach Kirby Cannon will lead into Neyland Stadium is a veteran team, carrying a mindset that can be dangerous to a relatively inexperienced group like Tennessee.
The Governors have nothing to lose.
"They're going to come in here swinging, and we've got to make sure we're prepared for that," Vols offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said.Picked to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference, Austin Peay will enter Shields-Watkins Field as more than seven-touchdown underdogs. Overwhelming odds, but ones that do not leave Cannon the least bit discouraged.
"The whole key to playing up is to have some deep beliefs that you can match up," Cannon said Tuesday on the Knoxville radio station, The Sports Animal. "If you do things exactly right along a plan, then you've got a chance to turn into the fourth quarter where the shock of a team hanging around in the fourth quarter sometimes can create some mistakes on their side."
Offensively, the Governors will rely heavily on line play, a cornerstone of the program for the last several years. Tackle Ben Stansfield – voted Preseason All-OVC by the league's head coaches and sports information directors – headlines a veteran group vying for a fourth consecutive top-15 national finish in fewest sacks allowed per game.
"They're very experienced, and they were a national leader in least sacks given up, so we know that's the strength of their team," UT defensive line coach Steve Stripling said. "That's why we've talked to our defensive line about establishing the line of scrimmage and being able to stop the run. We've got to be able to apply pressure with the front four."
Junior college transfer Andrew Spivey will start under center and lead a Govs offense that, according to Cannon, is "going to try to throw the ball around."
"I'd like to become a throwing team," Cannon told The Sports Animal. "I think that's the secret to sometimes stepping up and beating people you shouldn't.
"If we throw it 50 times Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised."
On defense, the Governors' return nine starters from the 2012 campaign, highlighted by Phil Steele Magazine first-team All-OVC defensive end Lousa Siliva. In addition, the senior from American Samoa was named to the 2014 Senior Bowl Watch List after recording five and a half tackles for loss and two sacks a season ago.
"(Austin Peay) is a veteran group too defensively," Bajakian said. "Their entire front seven is back. They've got a lot of depth. Even their backups played quite a bit last year, so they're an experienced group."Saturday's matchup will be the Governors' first attempt in 2013 to end their current 16-game road losing streak.
"This week we've really been dialed in on Austin Peay, and we recognize that they have some players and playmakers," UT defensive backs coach Willie Martinez said. "They've got some guys that have transferred in there that we know are really good players. They've got the attention of the football team, and we're excited to play."