Eli Fields has been at every Tennessee football home game the last four years, but none will be quite like Saturday.
The UT student woke up at 3 a.m. to get in line at Ayres Hall at 3:30 for ESPN's "College GameDay," dressed in his orange and white checkered overalls and Star Wars helmet painted to match. With his Baby Yoda in hand, Fields joined hundreds of Vols fans packed on The Hill singing "Rocky Top" so loud it could be heard a mile away.
"This is huge, I've never got to be a student when we beat Florida," Fields said. "I'm so excited to see us win a game that means this much to us. And for me to get to be here as a student and be this involved for it, just means so much to me."
WHAT WOJCIECHOWSKI SAID:ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski on UT-UF rivalry and his last 'College GameDay' in Knoxville
Fans at The Hill wore their voices out from 9 a.m. to noon and reached a crescendo when "GameDay" analyst Lee Corso picked the No. 12 Vols to beat No. 22 Florida at Neyland Stadium.
Season ticket holders Daniel Holt and Jason Holt showed up in bright yellow mustard bottle costumes. They saw the extracurriculars at the end of the Ole Miss game last season firsthand, and while they were disappointed in the fans throwing trash on the field, it makes for a good joke now.
When they heard GameDay was in Knoxville, there was no question they were going to arrive early for the Florida game, a rivalry that means "the difference between depression and happiness."
Daniel Holt, who referees high school football on Friday nights in Fayetteville, Tennessee, drove straight to Knoxville after his game, arriving around 2 a.m. Daniel and Jason were season ticket holders from 2010-17, and going to a couple games last season was enough for them to renew their season tickets this year.
"With it being sold out, this is what we've been wanting to get back to for last 15 years," Jason Holt said. "I don't think any Vol fan expected what we have right now. And to have our hopes exceeded ... I mean, you can see the passion and the energy that has come in here just because of that. Nothing else could make it like this right now, (coach) Josh Heupel's done this."
It has been six years since "College GameDay" was hosted in Knoxville, a fact that drew fans like Katharyn and Skylar Tarpley to Ayres Hall even though they didn't have tickets to the sold-out game.
"We had to see the atmosphere," Skylar Tarpley said. "The fan base right now is at an all time high, and Josh Heupel's done a really great job of getting the crowd and the fan base back into this."
The couple from Oak Ridge brought their two-year-old Bluetick Coonhound Summitt – named after legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, of course. While Skylar was born into Vols fandom, Katharyn married into it. She's an Alabama fan at heart and was even bold enough to wear Crimson Tide socks with her Tennessee shirt.
But on this day, Skylar, 22, has his focus on a different rivalry. It has been a lopsided rivalry with the Gators in his lifetime, but this year he has hope and "delusional expectations" for Tennessee football.
"Our (men's) basketball team won the SEC championship, the baseball team won the SEC championship – I don't care if we were in a first year head coach, I expect the football team to do the same," Skylar Tarpley said. "Could you imagine the headlines? Considering three years ago our athletic program was probably at an all time low, and we thought this would be a five year rebuild ... even if we go 10-2 this year, I mean, that's an amazing turnaround."
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee fans talk 'College GameDay', some dress as mustard bottles