Most people are counting Tennessee football out as they prepare to host No. 1 Georgia at Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Vols are coming off their worst performance of the season in a blowout loss at Missouri while Georgia is coming off a 35-point bludgeoning of Ole Miss last week.
But the 2023 college football season has been unpredictable and results have varied more week-to-week than they have in recent years.
Asked about this weekend’s SEC East showdown during his end of fall practice press conference Thursday, Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello isn’t discounting the Vols’ chances.
Vitello sees the path to a Tennessee victory and is excited to return to Neyland Stadium for the Vols’ final marquee matchup of the season.
“My biggest thing is this is such a tough place to play as a road opponent,” Vitello said. “The other thing is they kind of haven’t had their game where they kind of say, we didn’t play our best and we haven’t played our best. And so if some variation comes up with that, I think Dolly Parton’s gonna be singing ole Rocky Top.”
The successful baseball coach’s football assessment was accurate in many ways while also slightly inaccurate.
Georgia has had a couple games where they didn’t play its best game this season, most notably in wins over Auburn and Vanderbilt.
But that leads into one of Vitello’s correct points— playing at Neyland Stadium will be a challenge for Georgia. The Bulldogs have not played well on the road this season and Tennessee has been extremely successful at home in recent years. In fact, the Vols enter Saturday’s showdown as winners of 14 straight home games.
Vitello also hit the nail on the head when it comes to Tennessee having not played a complete game all season. The Vols will need just that to pull off the upset on Saturday afternoon.
It’s a big weekend in Knoxville around the top 20 matchup. Vitello is excited for the game but is perhaps most excited at the possibility of meeting Dolly Parton— who announced earlier this week that she’ll be in Neyland Stadium for the rivalry game.
“I think you start with Dolly Parton,” Vitello said. “She was on the Howard Stern Show yesterday. I called in to a radio show for the first time in my life to try and let her know how much she does for the state of Tennessee. Uh, I got rejected. So maybe I’ll get to say hello to her in person. The Kansas City Chiefs can have Taylor Swift all they want. We’ll take Dolly Parton on Saturday.”
It’s also a big weekend for Tennessee baseball. The Vols are “breaking ground” on Lindsey Nelson Stadium renovations on Friday afternoon even though construction began months ago. Tennessee is also hosting its entire signing class on official visits this weekend.
While all those players have already signed with Tennessee, the official visit is important to show the high school seniors a look at college life as many will have an opportunity to sign professionally next summer instead of enrolling at school.
“The Kansas City Chiefs can have Taylor Swift all they want, we’ll take Dolly Parton”
Tennessee HC Tony Vitello mentions Dolly Parton, Howard Stern, Taylor Swift, and Todd Helton all in one answer.
Check this one out ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Q3iCg8trrh
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 16, 2023