KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A few small groups of fans wearing orange stood in the shadow of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium on Saturday morning.
It was still quiet. The most noise was coming from a group of eight policemen casually huddled together. They were talking and laughing in a circle just over three hours before kickoff between the Missouri Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers.
They were not busy yet, but that would quickly change. While some Volunteers fans said they didn't expect to see the crowd reach the stadium's capacity of 102,455, plenty of fans would come out to watch two 4-5 teams fight for a Southeastern Conference win.
"If we had any kind of defense, we'd have at least three more wins," a man wearing a faded orange sweater said to his wife.
Missouri fans might be saying the same thing about the Tigers' offense. Neither of these teams is fighting for much more than bowl eligibility at this point.
Still, Missouri fans made their presence known in Knoxville. From the parking lot east of the stadium, the "MIZ-ZOU" chant could be heard early Saturday morning. It was soon drowned out.
Crowds of orange flooded sidewalks on both sides of the streets in front of Neyland Stadium. The fans extended all the way up Peyton Manning Pass, a street that slopes down a hill from campus toward the stadium. Painted on the street is a giant orange "T" and, farther down, an orange-and-white checkered stripe that matches the end zones on Shields-Watkins Field.
Even from the top of the hill, fans tilted their heads back to look up at the top of the stadium. The stadium's silver metal facade towers over fans on the east entrances.
The ends of the stadium look like the structure of a roller coaster. Tall steel beams hold up the upper oval of stadium seats and ramps laced with orange-painted hand rails spiral up to the top of the stadium.
A flow of orange steadily crept down Philip Fulmer Way, the street that runs in front of the stadium. After the Tennessee football team walked through the crowds, the fans collapsed into the streets.
Rivers of orange began to move toward the stadium. It was still over two hours before kickoff.