TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tuesday night, the Tennessee Volunteers became something they have not been since 1998: the No. 1 ranked football team in the nation.
The College Football Playoff released its first rankings of the season, placing the Vols first in front of Ohio State, Georgia and Clemson.
But Tennessee faces one of its toughest tests this weekend against the No. 3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in Athens.
Vols fans in Northeast Tennessee feel confident they will get the job done and maintain the top spot.
“I think the game will be in the 30s, and I think the higher the score the better for Tennessee,” said Jeff Beverly of the Sullivan County UT Alumni Association.
The Vols have been on an emotional roller coaster since their 1998 national championship win. After years of coaching turmoil and losing seasons, Beverly said he’s happy a new generation of fans can see the Vols be successful.
“I’m old enough to remember when we were No. 1 in ’98. A lot of younger people have not remembered that,” Beverly said. “I was happy for a lot of the younger Vols fans who have not experienced a lot of success.”
Tri-Cities businesses involved in the sports world are ramping up for a busy week, and a busier Saturday.
Wild Wing Cafe in Johnson City has seen capacity crowds for UT gamedays this year, and they expect no different come Saturday.
“It’s going to be a big one. It’s definitely going to be more than what we were planning on, so we’re making adjustments to prepare for it,” said General Manager Jacob Edwards. “Make sure that we have the proper staffing to be able to take care of it, but it’s going to be huge.”
At Alumni Hall in Bristol, a wide variety of Vols gear is available for sale. Wednesday, a steady stream of fans came in to get a fresh look for Saturday.
“There’s just so much excitement around it,” said Vol fan Jessica Sanders. “I’m actually here trying to find a shirt to get to wear for Saturday.”
If you want to watch the game outside Saturday, Johnson City is the place to be. The Washington County chapter of the alumni association is hosting a watch party with multiple projectors showing the game at Founder’s Park near downtown.
Admission is free, and you do not have to be an alumnus.
The chapter will be raising money for its scholarship fund for Washington County students planning to go to UT.
Chapter President Jeff Anderson expects well over 100 people to be there.
“We’ll be high-fiving and singing Rocky Top. Probably the people around here won’t like all the Rocky Top singing,” Anderson said. “Maybe they will, but I’m sure it’ll be just over the top. I mean, it’ll be wonderful.”
Anderson said they will have several food trucks there as well.
The game airs on CBS this Saturday at 3:30.