Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer takes a numerical view of Saturday's game against Notre Dame.
Sure, he says, his fourth-ranked Volunteers (6-1) are two points from perfection, but he had this to say about the 24th-ranked Fighting Irish (5-3): "They're 19 points from being undefeated, and nine points from being 2-6."
It's 20 points, but who's counting?
When the Vols play the Irish for the first time since a memorable game in 1991, numbers, though, won't mean much. A win is a must for both teams: The Vols need it to stay in contention for a Bowl Championship Series game; the Irish to stay in bowl contention, period.
While the Vols are a long shot at best to get a chance to defend their SEC title, not to mention their national crown, Fulmer remains focused on winning one game at a time.
"We've basically taken the approach that we want to be two points from perfect at the end of the season, and we can't do that unless we get by Notre Dame," Fulmer said.
The two points, of course, are the two by which the Vols lost to Florida six weeks ago in Gainesville. The fifth-ranked Gators (7-1) would have to lose to either Vanderbilt on Saturday or South Carolina the following week for the Vols to reach the SEC title game.
The Irish, meanwhile, are riding a shaky four-game winning streak after losses by 4, 5 and 11 points to Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State, respectively.
Last week, Navy nearly ended a 35-game losing streak against the Irish, but lost in the final seconds, 28-24, after a lucky spot on fourth down kept alive Notre Dame's winning drive.
The Irish also staged huge rallies to overtake Southern California 25-24 and Oklahoma 34-30.
But the last time these teams met, the Vols staged the greatest comeback in their history, winning 35-34 at South Bend after trailing by 24 points in the second quarter. A year earlier, in Knoxville, the Irish won 34-29.
"We respect their tradition," Fulmer says. "I don't think anybody will be awed by it. It's exciting to play against that kind of tradition, too."
In other Top 25 games, it's Minnesota at No. 2 Penn State; No. 3 Virginia Tech at West Virginia; Vanderbilt at No. 5 Florida; Colorado at No. 6 Kansas State; No. 7 Georgia Tech at Virginia; No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 Nebraska; and No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 17 Purdue.
Also, it's No. 11 Texas at Oklahoma State; LSU at No. 12 Alabama; No. 13 Marshall at Kent; No. 15 BYU at San Diego State; Northwestern at No. 16 Michigan; No. 18 East Carolina at Alabama-Birmingham; No. 20 Ohio State at No. 19 Michigan State; No. 22 Miami at Pittsburgh; Arkansas at No. 23 Mississippi; and No. 25 Southern Mississippi at Memphis.
No. 1 Florida State and No. 14 Georgia are off Saturday.
The Vols-Irish matchup features two of the nation's more versatile quarterbacks in Tee Martin and Jarious Jackson.
Martin averages 279.6 total yards per game for the Vols, including 1,494 yards passing; Jackson 235 yards per game for the Irish -- 1,859 yards passing.
The Vols also have running back Jamal Lewis (709 yards), while the Irish counter with Julius Jones, who ran for 146 yards against Navy -- the most for a Notre Dame freshman since 1975.
Conference play really heats up Saturday, with key games in the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-10 .
In the Big Ten, Penn State (9-0, 5-0) could be tested by Minnesota, which two years ago nearly won at Happy Valley before Penn State scored twice in the fourth quarter for a 16-15 victory.
Should the Lions falter, Wisconsin (7-2, 5-1) could step up with a win over the Boilermakers (6-3, 3-3 ) in a game featuring Heisman hopefuls Ron Dayne vs. Drew Brees.
Dayne, with two games remaining, needs 321 yards to break Ricky Williams' Division I-A career rushing record of 6,279 yards.
The Big 12 has Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2) at Nebraska (7-1, 4-1), Colorado (5-3) at Kansas State (8-0, 5-0) and Texas (7-2, 4-1) at Oklahoma State (3-4, 1-3).
K-State is first in the North with Nebraska and Colorado a game behind; Texas first in the South with Texas A&M one of three teams a game back.
The wacky Pac-10 is still up for grabs, with the top game Washington (5-3, 4-1) at Arizona (6-3, 3-2).
Under new coach Rick Neuheisel, the Huskies are the only league team to control their Rose Bowl fate. Win out, and Washington wins the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl berth.
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