Tennessee is up for their third SEC challenge in Mississippi State.
As the Vols prepare to head to Starkville, Miss. on Saturday, head coach Derek Dooley is focusing on what the Bulldogs bring to the field and how he can stop that on game day.
"They exercise a lot of patience in their game and we need to do the same thing," Dooley said. "Their defense is built around four senior, really good players. One up front, one at linebacker and two at the perimeter, and that experience shows up. They are good players and they form the nucleus of their defense. Then they have a back who if you go out there and reach at him, fly or jump at him and don't bring your hat and feet to the party, he is going to make you hurt. He broke a lot of tackles against Auburn and had some big plays."
One of the biggest challenges in Dooley's mind is Mississippi State's starting quarterback Tyler Russell.
"He manages the game really well and philosophically with what they do on offense, it plays into his hands," Dooley said. "They don't put him in a lot of positions to make bad decisions and then he just waits for somebody to have a breakdown and they hit a big play. He is a good, accurate thrower, he manages the game really well and they are running the ball good."
Secondly, Dooley is focusing on the team's mentality going into an away game after two hard losses to SEC teams.
"They have never really been uptight or nervous but there comes a point where we are learning these lessons each week, let's convert them into some wins," Dooley said. "We all know we need to do that. This is a good opportunity on the road against a good football team that has a lot of swagger right now. They are 7-0 in their last seven games. I don't care who you play, that is hard to do."
Dooley said that the game's 9 p.m. EST kickoff shouldn't have an effect on the game. He said they have a routine that the team does each time.
"There is a little routine you do based on kickoff and we'll stick to that," Dooley said. "The kick time is a big deal for the fans to me, but (not) for the players and the coaches. You should be ready, there is no excuse for not being ready. I think it is tough for the fans. I've expressed that concern since July. We have like eight teams play after 7 p.m. in the league."
Senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner said he's focusing on the team's strong points. He said that their defense is solid.
"I'm really impressed. You can tell those guys have been in the system a long time," Waggner said. "They are a core group of receivers and their quarterback, you can tell they have put years down working together, so they're a well-rounded offense."
Junior wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said he's looking forward to the challenge.
"But we don't look at that, we just go out there and do what we know we can do," Patterson said. "We know we are going to do some good things."