KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee was a preseason national darling, but after uninspiring wins over Appalachian State and Ohio, the Volunteers were seen as a possible fraud.
Following Saturday’s stunning second-half surge over Florida, many believe the resurgence on Rocky Top is real.
Has Tennessee reestablished itself as an SEC power?
“We’re in the process of doing so,” Todd Kelly Jr. said.
The Volunteers are 4-0 for the first time since 2003, stringing together 10 straight wins dating back to last season. Their 38-28 win over the Gators positioned them as frontrunner’s in the SEC East. A win this weekend at Georgia would all but clinch the division before the leaves even start changing in Knoxville.
“We have the confidence that we’re one of the best teams in the country,” Kelly Jr. said.
“That’s what any team wants to say, but we truly believe it. We have to go out and play like it, but work like it and hold ourselves accountable to that standard. We have that confidence that when we go out we’re going to play our best football.”
The Vols are 4-point favorites at No. 25 Georgia, but they haven’t won back-to-back games over ranked foes since 2007 — the last time they won the SEC East.
That’s the standard they’re trying to duplicate.
“It’d be huge,” Kelly Jr. said on stringing together some wins over tough teams this month with No. 25 Georgia, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama upcoming.
“A lot of people call it the ‘make it or break it’ stretch.’ But it all starts with the opponent that you have that particular week. So we’re not too focused on the future. Right now we’re focusing on Georgia football and going down to Sanford Stadium and getting a victory. Once that’s said and done. We’ll move onto the next opponent and focus on them. Hopefully when we look back and see what kind of stretch it was we’ll look back and smile.”