|KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer’s first words to his team in preparation for No. 12 Georgia had nothing to do with the Bulldogs. |
“I actually said, ‘War Damn Eagle,’” he said. “That’s the first thing I said, to be honest with you.”
Fulmer invoked the battle cry of Auburn because he knew the Tigers’ surprise 20-17 win over No. 9 Florida last Saturday opens up the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race for both the Volunteers and the Bulldogs.
Since the SEC expanded to two divisions in 1992, only Florida, Tennessee and Georgia have won the Eastern Division. While Saturday’s matchup between the Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) and the Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1) won’t determine the division winner, the loser of the game likely will be out of contention.
“Both teams want to feel like they are still in the race. We are right now but after Saturday one team’s hopes will be a lot dimmer,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
The Bulldogs have recent history on their side. The visiting team has won the last four games in this series and Richt has never lost in Knoxville.
Georgia also wants to avenge last year’s 51-33 loss to Tennessee, a game which featured 37 second half points from the Vols.
The 51 points were the second most ever put up by a Georgia opponent at Sanford Stadium.
Tennessee has lost against its last four ranked opponents, dating back to last season, and suffered Fulmer’s worse loss as coach in a 59-20 thumping by Florida in Gainesville on Sept. 15.
The Vols have also struggled this season with executing tackles and allowing opponents big offensive plays. The defense ranks 88th nationally in rushing defense and 110th in scoring defense.