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

Knoxville, Tenn. — Tennessee football is roaring to life under Josh Heupel, ranked No. 11 with college football’s center stage heading to Rocky Top.

The No. 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 pm (TV: CBS) matchup on Saturday.

Heupel, a former national championship quarterback at Oklahoma who played in more than one College GameDay setting, told his players earlier in the week to enjoy the buzz.

But now it is reigning national champion Georgia looking to stay atop the football world after conquering Nick Saban’s Alabama football dynasty last season.

Former Vols’ head coach and one-time Alabama and UGA defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said at the start of the year Tennessee is the only program East of the Mississippi River with an offense that can keep up with SEC titans Georgia and Alabama.

Pruitt expects the Big Orange to roll over Florida.

“There’s more infatuation of (recruits) wanting to go to the game because GameDay is there …. It helps bring attention, and kids certainly like that show in terms of it being on campus.”

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

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

First things first, Tennessee needs to get over the football hurdle the Gators have placed before with wins in 16 of the past 17 meetings.

Heupel is counting on that GameDay energy helping to make a difference, just as it did in 2016, when Josh Dobbs rallied UT from 21-3 down at the half for a 38-28 victory.

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