COLLEGE FB PACKAGE: Vols look to recapture home-field advantage at Neyland Stadium Print
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Wednesday, 03 October 2007 14:27
NCAAF Headline News

 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tennessee defensive end Xavier Mitchell thinks it's time for the Volunteers to reclaim what's rightfully theirs: a Neyland Stadium home-field advantage.
``We've got to let everybody know this is our house,'' he said. ``Just like your mom's house, you wouldn't let anyone come in and take anything from her.''
The odds haven't been in Tennessee's favor recently when the Vols (2-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) play ranked teams at home. Since the start of 2002, Tennessee are 2-9 at home against ranked opponents.
Georgia (4-1, 2-1) has won the last times it has visited Knoxville. Under coach Mark Richt, Georgia is 23-3 in an opponent's stadium, including a 9-2 road record against ranked teams.
Mitchell acknowledged that it's sometimes easier to get motivated for a big game on the road.
``It's us against the world,'' the senior said. ``I think I get more amped about the home crowd booing at us more than anything because you have something to prove. You come in with a chip on your shoulder.''
In the past six years, the Vols have managed five road wins against ranked opponents. They've won the past two meetings with No. 12 Georgia at Sanford Stadium, including last year's 51-33 win.
Tennessee beat Florida and Miami on the road in 2003 and eked out a dramatic come-from-behind overtime win against LSU in an otherwise dreadful 2005 season.
Tennessee hasn't always struggled in the big games at home. Coach Phillip Fulmer holds a 16-12 home record against top 25 teams during his tenure.
In 85 seasons at the Neyland Stadium site, the Vols have been able to use the crowds to their advantage, winning a little more than 79 percent of their games.
With a 102,038 capacity, Neyland Stadium is the fourth-largest stadium behind Michigan Stadium, Penn State's Beaver Stadium and Ohio State's Ohio Stadium. The attendance record was 109,061 for the 2004 Florida game.
The Vols won 23 straight games in Neyland Stadium from the fourth game of the 1996 season through the first home game of 2000, one of the best stretches in Tennessee football history that included the undefeated and national championship season in 1998.
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RECRUITING ADVANTAGE? Alabama coach Nick Saban believes the ability to accept partial academic qualifiers is a factor in the rise of Big East teams such as No. 6 South Florida.
That theory drew the ire of USF coach Jim Leavitt, who called Saban's facts ``not right.''
``Whoever gave him that information needs to correct it,'' Leavitt told the Tampa Tribune. He said only two of his players are partial qualifiers and only one starts.
Saban said Monday that the stricter rules for the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, for instance, helps ``create a lot of parity.''
``When you play those schools, you're playing against guys that you couldn't recruit,'' he said.
He used South Florida as an example. ``I think there's six guys starting on South Florida's defense that probably could have gone to Florida or Florida State, but Florida and Florida State couldn't take them,'' Saban said.
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CAN'T BEAT THE BALL COACH: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier have been opposing each other in golf far longer than they've faced off in football. Spurrier always wins both.
No. 8 Kentucky (5-0, 1-0) is seeking its first win against Spurrier in Thursday night in a matchup that will produce one of the early front-runners in the race for the SEC East title.
Brooks usually downplays coaching matchups, but he acknowledges finally beating Spurrier would be nice for the Big Blue faithful.
``For all those long-suffering UK fans, I guess it would be, because I've been hearing that from a lot of people,'' Brooks said.
Spurrier has long enjoyed stirring the pot when it comes to comments about the Wildcats. Kentucky's players say they aren't out for revenge but would love to break the dry spell.
``He's never for a loss of words,'' defensive lineman Dominic Lewis said. ``We'll definitely be motivated playing him.''
Kentucky's high-powered offense has produced 40-point games the last five weeks. The last SEC team to do that? Spurrier's Florida Gators in 2001.
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EARLY HURTING: LSU's Early Doucet, the team's most experienced receiver, has missed three straight games with an undisclosed leg injury that coach Les Miles said occurred during non-contact drills on Sept. 14.
His status remains unclear this week, and Miles has referred to Doucet as day-to-day without sounding terribly optimistic about the chances of him playing on Saturday night when the Tigers host No. 9 Florida.
Meanwhile, LSU's second receiver, sophomore Brandon LaFell, went in and out of last Saturday's 34-9 triumph over Tulane with a sore ankle, and after practice earlier this week told reporters he was 70 percent.
Still, LSU appears to have good depth at receiver, given solid contributions made by junior Demetrius Byrd (seven catches, 177 yards, one TD), sophomore Jared Mitchell (nine catches for 104 yards) and freshman Terrance Toliver (four catches for 100 yards and two TDs).
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LEADING BT NOT STARTING: Mississippi State tailback Anthony Dixon is the Southeastern Conference's sixth-leading rusher, but he is no longer a starter.
Coach Sylvester Croom said Christian Ducre will get the start this week against UAB because he's not happy with Dixon's attention to detail.
Among Dixon's sins was a failure to pick up a crucial fourth-and-1 in the 38-21 loss at South Carolina last Saturday. Dixon, a power back who weighs 240 pounds, was supposed to go up the middle. Instead, he turned to run outside and was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
``If you can't get fourth-and-1, you're going to get beat, and you don't deserve to win,'' Croom said after the game.
Dixon has rushed for 434 yards and an average of 4.1 yards a carry. He has six rushing touchdowns and is fifth in the conference in scoring with an average of 7.2 points per game.
Ducre, a transfer who left Tulane after the school dropped his major following Hurricane Katrina, has rushed for 236 yards and an average of 5.1 yards a carry.
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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans, John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Jeff McMurray in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this report.
 

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