Tennessee (7-5) vs. Virginia Tech (9-3)
Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
There has been talk for several years now about possibly matching Tennessee and Virginia Tech for a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway. There won’t be any fumes or tire tread to speak of, but the Vols and Hokies will meet for the first time since Peyton Manning's freshman season at Tennessee in 1994.
Lane Kiffin proved in the buildup to his first season at Tennessee that he could talk a good game, but his Vols won some respect around the league with how tough, how hard-nosed and how disciplined they were on the field. Monte Kiffin’s defense was the backbone of this club, although the Vols didn’t play as well on that side of the ball at the end of the season when they lost a few players to injury and/or suspension.
Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton was one of the most improved players in the league. After a dismal stretch in September, he rebounded to pass for 2,565 yards and 26 touchdowns. Senior running back Montario Hardesty rushed for 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns after being under-utilized by the previous staff.
The Vols had some quality losses this year to Alabama and Florida and had the Crimson Tide beat if they could kick a field goal. What they need to make this a successful first season under Kiffin is a quality win, and taking down Frank Beamer and the Hokies would certainly qualify.