Tennessee’s football team has become known for being prepared. UT head coach Josh Heupel even prepared his team for the unthinkable on Tuesday night: The Vols are No. 1 in the nation.
“We talked about it earlier in the week, knowing that the rankings were going to come out,” Heupel said on ESPN following the College Football Playoff Committee Selection Show. “We didn’t know where we would be ranked, but we figured we’d be somewhere near the top.”
Heupel was obviously enjoying the moment as he grinned during the interview. He encouraged his players to do the same.
“At the end of the day, one of the things that our players have done here is we’ve tried to enjoy the journey and take moments of pause to reflect and enjoy what our players have built here,” Heupel said. “They built this. Three years ago, it didn’t look like this. This is a proud…massive fan base that loves the “Power T’ and they’re excited about the way our players are playing. Embrace it.
“They understand that the reason we’re in this situation is the way we prepare, the way we practice and then we go play for each other on game day. That’s going to be the same message this Saturday.”
The Vols had better have the same approach when they play Georgia in Athens. The Bulldogs will likely be a bit riled about being ranked No. 3 by the College Football Playoff Committee. Clemson was No. 4, followed by Michigan and Alabama, respectively. Did this happen sooner than Heupel expected?
“I don’t know that we placed a timeframe on it,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that actually had our players buy into what we’re doing. We never set a ceiling. Obviously, our guys’ habits have allowed us to play consistently here in the early part of the season. There’s a long ways to go. We obviously have a huge test this week in Athens, Ga. I love competing with this team every Saturday.”
Tennessee plays Georgia at 3:30 EST on Saturday. Unlike earlier in the week, the Vols will be the higher rated team. Hold on. Things are starting to get interesting.