KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer admits he may use a negative newspaper article or two to keep his Volunteers motivated.
Trouble is, he may have a hard time finding such fodder after the No. 25 Vols' 35-14 win over No. 24 Georgia last weekend.
``Players are smart guys ... but you use everything that you can along the way,'' Fulmer said Tuesday. ``It might be an article, could be anything. There's still that emotion part of it that you want to keep stirred.''
The Vols (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) fixed the problems that plagued them in early season losses with an impressive and emotional win over rival Georgia. Now they visit Mississippi State (4-1, 1-2) in a game prime for a letdown.
But Florida's losses to Auburn and LSU has given new life to the Vols, written off after losing to California and Florida.
They now have as good a chance as any to win the SEC East, which should provide plenty of motivation even against a Mississippi State team they've beaten in each of the three games over the past decade.
It could also be a trap game, especially with Alabama and No. 7 South Carolina up next.
``(Players) look ahead and every opponent, like Mississippi State, is outstanding,'' Vols secondary coach Larry Slade said. ``They look at that and realize to beat Mississippi State, we've got to continue to improve. That's motivation enough.''
None of these Vols are confident enough yet that they worry about a letdown, not against a team that beat No. 22 Auburn.
``For us to overlook a team with a better record than we have would be silly,'' quarterback Erik Ainge said.
Speaking of Auburn, the Vols haven't won an SEC East title or played in the league championship game since 2004, which they lost to the Tigers 38-28. That statistic is enough to motivate wide receiver Josh Briscoe.
``Tennessee football is about winning. It's a tradition here to be in the SEC championship game and in BCS games,'' Briscoe said. ``Those are the things we've got to get back to. We've got to bring that aspect back here to our fans, to our students, to our team and this athletic department.''
Ainge agrees that a Dec. 1 trip to Atlanta is something he keeps in the back of his mind. He knows that winning out the rest of the season will guarantee a ticket to the Georgia Dome.
But, as Fulmer will tell you and his players after any big win or loss, there's a lot of football yet to be played.
``If you lose one, you're back to square one where we were before,'' Ainge said. ``We understand what each game means, each first down, every play.''

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