KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CBSMiami) – When the Florida Gators take the field at Neyland Stadium Saturday, for the first time in a long time, the game between the Gators and Tennessee Volunteers actually carries some relevance on the national stage.
Both teams are ranked for the first time since 2007, Tennessee is ranked 23rd and Florida is ranked 18th in the latest polls. The game will also go a long way towards deciding who will move into a lead for the SEC East.
Tennessee has posted two consecutive losing seasons. After winning national titles in 2006 and 2008, Florida has gone 15-11 over the last two years, but even so, Florida has won seven straight games over the Volunteers.
The Gators are coming off a come from behind 20-17 victory over SEC newcomer Texas A&M last week. Tennessee has gained over 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2000, giving the Vols hope to believe they can finally overcome the Gators.
“We walk around campus and people just have that look, that Tennessee’s back,” Volunteers defensive end Darrington Sentimore said.
But, if Tennessee hopes to pull out a victory over Florida, it’s going to need a strong running game.
The Volunteers have averaged 1.8 yards per carry over the last seven games with Florida. Tennessee hasn’t outrushed the Gators since 2004, which is coincidentally the last time they defeated UF.
Both defenses are sensing blood in the matchup. Florida believes Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray will try to force the ball into coverage like last year’s game when he threw three touchdown passes, but two costly interceptions.
Tennessee believes the Florida offensive line is ripe for the picking. Last week, the Gators gave up eight sacks of quarterback Jeff Driskel and Volunteers defenders believe Texas A&M exposed problems with the Gators’ O-line.
The Vols and Gators were “two of the top five teams in the country in the ’90′s,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “Basically, the third Saturday in September, whoever won that game certainly had a leg up on winning the East.”
However, to quote ESPN’s Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.” While the winner will be in a better position, South Carolina and Georgia will both have plenty to say about who wins the SEC East this year.
Florida travels to Georgia for a 6:00 p.m. kickoff and can be seen at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)