KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Notre Dame was warned about playing in Neyland Stadium, where 91,110 Tennessee fans can shatter opposing teams with a rebel yell.
But the Fighting Irish know about road trips to hell. They played Miami at the Orange Bowl last year.
"It's supposed to be a pretty hostile environment there. But I can't imagine it being any worse than the Orange Bowl when you play the Hurricanes," safety Todd Lyght said.
"I think going down to Miami last year christened us," said running back Ricky Watters. "Now we know what it's like, and we should be ready for it."
All week at practice in South Bend, Ind., Notre Dame prepared for today's game with Tennessee (2 p.m., channels 9 and 11) with a tape blaring simulated crowd noise and the music and lyrics to "Rocky Top," the official state song of Tennessee and Volunteers' anthem. Lyght said he could hear it in his dreams: fTC "Rocky Top, you'll always be home, sweet home to me/Good ol' Rocky Top/Rocky Top, Tennessee."
Last year, Notre Dame did nothing to prepare for the crowd noise in Miami, and the Fighting Irish were beaten in the bedlam.
"The loudest stadium I've ever been in was Miami last year," Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said. "I expected that we would miss some checkoffs, but what I did not anticipate was that we would not be able to hear the plays in our own huddle."
Holtz is more worried about Rick Mirer's voice than his quarterback's arm.
"Last year, we had a baritone [Tony Rice] calling the signals. This year we have a soprano," Holtz said.
Since its national championship season in 1988, Notre Dame has played 14 ranked opponents, losing only to Miami.
The Fighting Irish (7-1), No. 1 again, are a three-point underdog to No. 9 Tennessee (5-1-2).
"The fact is Tennessee is an excellent football team," Holtz said.
Tennessee coach Johnny Majors is not underestimating the Fighting Irish just because they are the underdogs.
"I don't know who's No. 1, but it seems like Notre Dame has as much right to claim it as anyone," he said.
The last time Tennessee played a No. 1 team was 1985, when Bo Jackson and Auburn came to town. The Vols won, 38-20, on their way to the Southeastern Conference championship. The Vols could return to the USF&G Sugar Bowl with victories today and next week against SEC leader Mississippi.
This is Tennessee's time of year. The Vols have won 25 consecutive games in November, December and January. Maryland was the last team to beat Tennessee late in the season, 28-27, in the 1984 Sun Bowl.
Notre Dame and Tennessee have played twice, splitting a home-and-home series in 1978 and 1979. Tennessee won at Neyland Stadium.