It isn’t stopping the sports world like it used to, but the Tennessee Football rivalry with the Florida Gators still has a ton of intensity and history to it. The fact that Florida has won 16 of 18 means nothing to Josh Heupel’s kids. They still take this game seriously and will be fired up to go when they face UF in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday.
“Do we like them? No,” said Vols tight end Jacob Warren. “Do they like us? No.”
However, Warren referred to the game as an opportunity for Tennessee Football as well. After all, what once made this a rivalry was what was at stake: being in the driver’s seat of the SEC East race and, at least when both were top 10 programs, an early shot at the national championship.
“I think it’s a game you kind of have to win in order to be considered, especially around here, considered a good team, and then someone that has a chance to go and accomplish all those goals that we talk about accomplishing, and I think that that’s kind of the motto,” he said. “That’s the mission: Yeah, it is Florida, and they’re in the way of what we’re trying to get done.”
Last year, the Vols struggled early in the first half against the Gators, but a TD drive to end the half put them ahead. They then scored on the opening drive of the second half to take a 10-point lead, one that eventually extended to a 17-point lead in the fourth, but they had to hold on for a 38-33 win.
The game was really what got Tennessee Football going last year, as it got the Vols to 4-0 with two close wins, them and the Pittsburgh Panthers, and they turned that momentum into a blowout win at the LSU Tigers and their huge win over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
However, that game was with the support of Neyland Stadium. This year, they have to face Florida in The Swamp, where they haven’t won since 2003. Warren said the first step to preparing for them is analyzing their play against the Austin Peay Governors and then looking ahead to UF.
“It’ll be fun. It’ll be rowdy. Obviously, we’ll be in Gainesville, and it’ll be loud, and it’ll be a good environment,” he said. “I’m excited. i think we’re all excited to go down there.”