Vols Looking to Roll

One week can make all the difference in this topsy-turvy season in college football. That's true for Tennessee, which is singing a sweeter tune this week.

Now with the inside track to the SEC East Division title, the 24th-ranked Volunteers step out of conference play to host Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Tennessee -28.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on LA Lafayette +28.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Two weeks ago, Tennessee was routed 41-17 at Alabama, snapping a three-game winning streak. There were calls for coach Phillip Fulmer's job and an air of discontent around the program.

"In the SEC, it's hard to get a break," Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayres said. "You've got to take advantage of it when you do."

That's exactly what the Volunteers did, upsetting then-No. 15 South Carolina 27-24 in overtime last Saturday, a victory that may have saved their season. Coupled with Georgia's 42-30 win over Florida, Tennessee (5-3) now controls its own destiny in the SEC East.

"This league is crazy, and we're back in it," said Vols quarterback Erik Ainge, who is third in the conference with 14 touchdown passes. "We're right back to where we were two weeks ago. There are a lot of good teams. We've been fortunate to win some big games and have some other (teams) lose."

Georgia has a half-game lead in the win column, but the Volunteers beat the Bulldogs 35-14 on Oct. 6, giving them the tiebreaker. So if Tennessee can win out, it will claim the East for the first time since 2004, with a chance at its first SEC title since 1998.

That would mark quite a turnaround after what Fulmer and the Vols have gone through this season, including a 59-20 loss at Florida on Sept. 15.

"Somebody said on television that the next thing we have to look forward to is signing day and the (NFL) draft. That's stupid. That's just stupid. That's someone who has no idea what Tennessee football is about," said Fulmer, the NCAA leader among active coaches in winning percentage (.763) with a 142-44 record.

"We control our own destiny right now - nobody else."

Tennessee nearly lost to South Carolina, blowing a 21-point first-half lead and only sending the game to overtime when Daniel Lincoln hit a 48-yard field goal with 5 seconds remaining.

The win moved the Vols to 4-0 at home and was the first of four straight games they play at Neyland Stadium before closing the regular season at Kentucky. Tennessee, which leads the nation with only three sacks allowed, has averaged 430.0 yards of offense and 37.2 points at home this season.

This was supposed to be an off-week for the Volunteers when the schedule was drawn up, but when Central Florida canceled a date with Tennessee, the school signed up the Ragin' Cajuns.

"I think you like to play these games earlier in the year if you can, but it doesn't always work out that way," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle said. "They are in the heat of their conference schedule and I don't know if that works to our advantage or disadvantage."

The teams have only met once, but it was a landmark win for the Volunteers' program. Tennessee beat Louisiana-Lafayette - then known as Southwestern Louisiana - 38-3 to open the 1992 season, the first career victory for Fulmer.

The Cajuns (1-7) haven't had much success this season after winning six games each in 2005 and 2006. Louisiana-Lafayette is getting outscored by nearly two touchdowns per game this year.

The Cajuns, who had a bye last week, are 0-3 on the road this season, including a 28-14 loss to South Carolina in their season opener.

"It will be probably be one of the greatest college atmospheres that we have ever played in," Bustle said about Saturday's game. "I think our kids are excited about playing. Where we are with our schedule and the conference race is all behind us. We are going to take these last four games and take the right attitude and see if we can't improve this thing a lot."

This is the first of three straight road games for Louisiana-Lafayette, which is 6-6 in its last 12 road games. Before that, the Cajuns lost 52 of 58 games away from home.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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