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Tennessee vs Appalachian State Preview: Good, Old Fashioned Reality

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Finally.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

From a hotel room in Tampa, 244 days ago:

The kind of hype that's coming now hasn't been seen around here since 2005. And that sentence should be enough to temper it, at least briefly, since the Vols promptly went 5-6 that year. But this will be championship hype. The kind some will still say the Vols don't deserve because it's been x number of years since Tennessee beat Florida or Alabama or won a championship. And that's exactly why I'm going to enjoy it. Every word, every syllable between now and September 3.

I have no idea what's going to happen. But Tennessee is here. And we're a little nervous and a lot excited for what might happen next.

Today - two days early! - we end an off-season of hopeful anticipation. It hasn’t moved any faster with Tennessee in the Top 10 conversation, but it also hasn’t carried the slow weight of so many summers gone.

One thing I didn’t expect: Tennessee has so many familiar names and faces and so few questions, much of this off-season has really just been different versions of the same conversation. There’s no new quarterback to figure out, no freshmen who must step in right away, and even the brand new defensive coordinator is as proven a hire as you could hope for. Instead it’s been mostly, “Is Tennessee overrated? Can Dobbs throw it downfield? What about Butch in the clutch? What about DeBord?” Rinse, repeat. We had two stories on DeBord yesterday. We’ve done analysis, paralysis, etc.

But tonight, we rise and walk.

The most important words on DeBord, Butch Jones, Josh Dobbs, and Team 120 are yet to be written, the first syllables formed tonight. And more than any Tennessee team of at least the last ten years, they will control their own narrative. All these questions, assumptions, and preconceived notions will evaporate in the light of everything Team 120 actually does on this Thursday and the next dozen Saturdays.

It’s been great being able to defend why our team should be in the Top 10 again, a good thing to be able talk about these last few steps and how the Vols might take them. But tonight, we get to leave all that behind and do the thing we love most: watch our team take its first steps of a new season. Tonight, we trade perception for reality.

Having spent nine months waiting for this, I wouldn’t be too quick to think about that hotel room in Tampa again just yet either. It’s not going anywhere right now. Neither is Alabama. Neither is Florida or Jalen Tabor or the things we’ve been waiting to say for 11 years. Neither is Bristol or words no one has ever said about a college football game.

Tonight we get to put down the past and the future, what this team almost was last year and what it could be this year. Tonight it’s #9 Tennessee and Appalachian State. We’ve been waiting a long, long time to play a game with a number like that in front of our name. Let’s enjoy it.

Only one way to ensure there’s a number there next week.

Go Vols.