In less than three weeks, on Friday, August 31, at 7:30 p.m., the eyes of the college-football world will focus on the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic will feature the University of Tennessee Volunteers against the North Carolina State University Wolfpack. This event is a double feature, with the second game the following evening, between Auburn and Clemson.
Since the Vols won their second SEC championship in a row in 1998, the Georgia Dome has not held any warm memories for Tennessee.
There was the fourth-quarter lapse against LSU in 2001 that cost UT a berth in the BCS title game and an opportunity for a second national championship in three years. That loss was followed by two additional SEC championship losses, in 2004 and 2007, and three losses in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Those six straight losses by the Vols in the Georgia Dome have some Volunteer fans wondering if they are ever going to break this G.D. (Georgia Dome) curse.
My thoughts on that are simple: Bring 'em on! It's not the building; it's how Tennessee has played in those games.
It was an overconfident Vols team that lost to LSU in 2001. Tennessee had already beaten the Tigers fairly handily that year.
Plus, the team had just come from a superb performance against Florida at The Swamp the week before, in a game that had been moved due to the Sept. 11 attacks.
I remember being at that game, watching Florida coeds drop their long-stem roses on the ground and walk away, some with tears, after the game was over.
The 18.5-point underdog Vols had come into Gainesville, overcome an early 14-point deficit and beaten the mighty Gators, 34-32. The students had cheered the whole way, knowing their Gators would eventually be in the national-title game at the Rose Bowl.
A week later it was Tennessee students' turn to carry long-stem roses to the SEC championship game. All the Vols needed to do was beat an underdog LSU team they had already beaten, and it was off to the Rose Bowl.
Four hours after kickoff came the stark reality of a 20-31 loss to the Tigers and more roses on the floor.
The other five Georgia Dome losses didn't tear out hearts of Vols fans, but they still hurt. Two SEC championships lost and three bowl games lost, all because of a G.D. building!
I don't think so.
It is time for the Vols to put this G.D. curse behind them. It is time to start winning football games in this G.D. building.
Many believe they will do it against NC State this year.
So get ready, Vols fans, it is time to reclaim these G.D. games. How is this team going to win an SEC title next year if they can't win a G.D. game this year?
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