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Die-hard fans dream big as playoff chances grow for the Vols

Tennessee fans are feeling optimistic about making it to the College Football Playoffs.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With Tennessee Football at the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, the Vols are now projected to be one of the favorites to enter the playoffs and fight for a spot in the national championship game this year.

It's been nearly a quarter of a century since Tennessee was named the No. 1 team in the country, and their College Football Playoff ranking will matter to determine the course of their post-season chances.

"The last couple of years were kind of like upsetting because it felt like we were so behind," one fan said.

That all changed this season.

"We were getting some food last night at the restaurant when we saw we were number one and we all went crazy," another fan said.

Now, Vol fans are getting even more excited weighing the chances of making it to the playoffs.

"I feel like school spirit is so much better this year because everyone you know has a lot of faith about this, you know, I think we're actually going to make it very far," a fan said.

Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan said his predictions have to stay impartial, but he still recognizes how big this is for Tennessee.

"A whole generation of Tennessee alumni are seeing for the first time Tennessee back at that level when they had when Peyton Manning and Philip Fulmer leading Tennessee," Stokan said.

The Peach Bowl is one of six bowl games that alternate in pairs every three years to host the top four teams competing for the national championship, which also includes the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. 

This year the College Football Playoffs are being held at the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, and the winners of those games will go on to play each other in the national championship game. 

Over its past five-plus decades, the Peach Bowl has drawn in more than 3 million fans.

"The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl has changed since the last time Tennessee has been in it back in 2001 and 2003. It's now part of the 'New Year's Six' and we host the semifinal every three years," Stokan said.

Vol fans said they would drop everything to go to the playoffs should Tennessee stay in the Top 4.

"I'd go if we go to Phoenix, Atlanta, California across the world... I'd go," one fan said. "I'll be taking the whole week off of school... no homework just focusing strictly on the game."

Before they can think about national titles, Tennessee is just focused on the large task of taking down the reigning champions first. Tennessee and Georgia will clash in Athens Saturday evening in the biggest game of the college football season to determine who truly deserves to be called No. 1 right now. 

Whichever team loses this week will see their playoff hopes left partially up to fate, but not all hope will be lost. Some analysts are predicting the potential of a rematch between Georgia and Tennessee in the playoffs -- should at least a few other top-ranked teams stumble between now and Dec. 4.

For now, Vol fans are dreaming big.

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