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Volunteers Begin Quest For A Title

Associated Press

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has spent the summer trying to silence all national championship talk, but apparently he forgot to tell Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes.

“This is one of the better teams we’ve ever played, if not the best one,” Dykes said as his Red Raiders prepared to play the No. 5 Volunteers Saturday night.

“I think they’ve probably got a chance to win the national championship. They’ve got a lot of good weapons and they’re well coached. They play the game like it ought to be played.”

Fulmer said earlier this fall he thinks the Volunteers got too caught up in national title talk last year, and has decreed there shall be none this time around. He couldn’t stop Dykes from bringing it up, of course, so he countered with flattery of his own.

“First of all it’s really important for everybody to understand we’re playing a very fine Texas Tech football team,” he said. “We’ve studied them all summer and every time you watch them on film you’re more impressed. They know what they’re doing.”

Both teams enter the season with a proven quarterback, complete unknowns in the backfield and enough returning starters on defense to make scoring difficult.

The Vols are led by quarterback Peyton Manning. The Red Raiders counter with Zebbie Lethridge.

“He’s more dangerous when you do flush him out of the pocket and he gets creative,” Fulmer said of Lethridge.

Tennessee returns three of its top four receivers and Tech returns its top two, so the passing games should be in good shape. But both teams have big holes to fill at running back.

Texas Tech was fifth in the Big 12 last year in total defense and will play five returning starters.

The Tennessee has seven returning starters from a unit that led the SEC in scoring defense (14.3 points a game) and total defense (236 yards) last year.

xxxx QB COMPARISON The Vols are led by quarterback Peyton Manning, already the top Heisman Trophy candidate and the leading passer in school history with 7,382 yards and 53 touchdowns. The Red Raiders counter with Zebbie Lethridge, an able if less than prolific passer (5,167 career yards), as well as a dangerous scrambler and solid leader on the field.

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