ATLANTA--Georgia State (0-1) faces its third FBS program and its second from the powerful Southeastern Conference in three years as the Panthers travel to Tennessee (1-0) Saturday for a 4 p.m. contest at Neyland Stadium.
"Going into games like this, the most important thing the staff has to do is to cause the players to believe we have a chance to win this game," said Georgia State head coach Bill Curry at his weekly press conference. "I've been on both sides of the coin. I've been the coach of the hopeless underdog going into these situations and have seen our team win the game. And I've been on the other side when we were trying to convince people these guys might be dangerous and they could come up and play a lot better than people expect."
Curry's Georgia State team has faced an FBS team in each of its first two seasons. In the inaugural season of 2010, Georgia State played at defending national champion and 10th-ranked Alabama (l. 63-7), and last year the Panthers travelled to Houston (l. 56-0).
"Our goal when we play these kinds of games is to get better every time, and so far we haven't done that," said Curry. "We've played one of these games each of the last two years, and we have not played our best in either of those games.
"Our theme has been since spring practice has been 'man up and finish.' We will continue to work, scratch and fight until we learn how to do that."
Georgia State is facing Tennessee for the first time, but Curry has earned five victories against the Volunteers in his career, including four straight from 1986-89 while coaching at Georgia Tech and Alabama. His overall record against the Volunteers is 5-11-1 in 17 seasons at Tech, Alabama and Kentucky. He is believed to be the first person to coach against Tennessee with four different schools.
As a player, Curry's Georgia Tech teams played the Vols from 1962-64, including wins in 1962 and 1963. He also noted that his first game as a college freshman was at Tennessee in a freshman game, so he has many memories of the Volunteers' stadium.
"I remember it when it was much, much smaller," said Curry. "Obviously, it was when I was young and played there in the early 60's. I guess it was 60 or 70,000 then and it seemed big, and now it's just gigantic and steep.
"The stadium is, in terms of degree of loudness and the ability to drown out signals, it's in the top five. It's colorful with its checkerboard end zones and all that, and the incessant playing of that song [Rocky Top]. We've gotten our guys accustomed to hearing it.
"What we try to tell our guys each time we go into a big hostile stadium against a physically advanced team is to feed off the energy of the crowd," said Curry. "Because you can. It doesn't have to be just for them. It's fun to play in that type of atmosphere."
Curry also has a long history with Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. Not only did Curry compete against Derek's father, Vince Dooley, but Curry's son, Bill, was a teammate of Derek Dooley's at Virginia.
"They were both walk-on players," said Curry. "Derek was older, and he was wonderful to Bill, Jr."
Curry noted at his press conference that backup quarterback Kelton Hill has begun to work on defense at safety but will continue to be used on offense in Wildcat packages.
"It's about getting our best 22 players on the field," said Curry.
The Georgia State-Tennessee game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis and is expected to be available via ESPN Gameplan. Radio coverage is available on the GSU Radio Network, including Atlanta flagships Newstalk 1160 AM (WCFO) and WMLB-AM 1690.