Sports

Rising threat? Tennessee looks to cash in on ESPN GameDay exposure, get over Florida hump

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. Tennessee football comes alive under number 11 Josh Heupel with the center stage of college football heading to Rocky Top.

The 11-ranked Vols will host ESPN’s College GameDay for the first time in six years when rival Florida invades Neyland Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. (TV: CBS) game on Saturday.

Heupel, a former Oklahoma National Championship quarterback who played in more than one College GameDay setting, told his players earlier this week to enjoy the crowds.

But now reigning champions Georgia is looking to stay on top of the football world after conquering Nick Saban’s Alabama football dynasty last season.

Former Vols head coach and former Alabama and UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said at the start of the year that Tennessee is the only program east of the Mississippi River with a violation that can keep up with SEC titans Georgia and Alabama.

Pruitt expects the Big Orange to roll over Florida.

“There is more infatuation from (recruits) wanting to go to the game because GameDay is here…. It helps draw attention, and kids definitely like that show because it’s on campus. ”

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Tennessee hopes to cash in with a handful of 5-stars expected to participate and as many as 8 Top 100 recruits from upcoming classes.

The Vols have been among the more aggressive programs in NIL deals, to the point where a leader in the UGA athletic community believes Tennessee will emerge as Georgia’s biggest threat in the East Division in the coming years.

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First, Tennessee must overcome the football hurdle the Gators have previously set with wins in 16 of the past 17 meetings.

Heupel is counting on that GameDay energy to help make a difference, just like in 2016, when Josh Dobbs tied UT from 21-3 for a 38-28 win.

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