GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – A few years back, when Steve Spurrier and Philip Fulmer were walking the sidelines, the annual matchup between Florida and Tennessee ranked as one of the best games of the year.
It also sparked some great one-liners, like Spurrier quipping, “You can’t spell Citrus Bowl without UT.”
Lately though, the series has been one-sided as the Gators maintained a level of excellence as Tennessee fell into irrelevance in the Southeastern Conference.
Saturday, the 19th ranked Gators will look to get the bitter taste of a loss to Miami out of their mouth by trying to extend the series winning streak to 10 straight games by knocking off the Volunteers.
“It’s a great rivalry, but in order for us to continue to really make this a rivalry, we have to start winning some of these football games,” first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.
Tenneessee is also coming off a brutal loss at the hands of the University of Oregon. The Ducks ran up and down the field all over UT and won the game 59-14.
UT also had a win gift-wrapped for the team when Western Kentucky couldn’t start the game without turning the ball over five times.
Now, UT has to face a stiff Gators defense and UF gets a chance to right the offense after sputtering against the Hurricanes.
Here are five things to know about Tennessee and Florida as they start conference play:
QB DECISION: Tennessee’s starting quarterback might not be known until Saturday. Junior Justin Worley started the first three games, but Jones said he would start whoever performs best in practice. The Volunteers struggled last week in a 59-14 loss at No. 2 Oregon. Worley has completed 35 of 57 passes for 372 yards, with five touchdown passes and one interception. Redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman is 6 of 12 for 40 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Jones didn’t rule out the possibility of starting freshmen Riley Ferguson or Joshua Dobbs. “The guys are competing every day,” offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said. “This process could go right through to the pregame warm-ups.”
HALAPIO RETURNS: Florida right guard Jon Halapio, considered the team’s best blocker, will make his season debut against the Volunteers. Halapio missed the first two games, as well as most of fall practice, because of a torn pectoral muscle. He injured it lifting weights this summer. He had an injection of platelet-rich plasma to speed up recovery and will wear a protective brace designed to restrict shoulder movement. “I’m pretty mobile with it,” he said. “The only thing that really bothers me is if I get back too far. That strength hasn’t really been developed yet. But as far as like stabilization and strength, I’ve been feeling really good.”
D-LINE DEPTH: Tennessee’s defensive line has depth issues and could be tested against Florida’s run-heavy attack. Defensive tackle Maurice Couch, who started nine games at defensive end last year, is ineligible while the university investigates allegations he received improper benefits. Fellow lineman Trevarris Saulsberry is out at least three weeks following a knee injury sustained against Oregon. Seldom-used junior Gregory Clark and redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien are listed as backups. “Everyone has to elevate their game,” Jones said.
REIGNING IN DRISKEL: Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease wants quarterback Jeff Driskel to make better decisions in key situations. Pease said he’s “got to do a better job of maybe limiting or controlling what we give him.” Driskel threw two interceptions in the red zone in a 21-16 loss at Miami two weeks ago. The junior now has 10 turnovers in the team’s last three losses.
‘ROCKY TOP’ ROAST: Three Florida players — defensive tackle Dominique Easley, receiver Trey Burton and fullback Hunter Joyer — admitted to singing “Rocky Top” during games against Tennessee. “I don’t know if I should say it, but I think it’s one of the best fight songs in college football,” Burton said. Not all his teammates agreed. Linebacker Michael Taylor said guys singing along is “pretty much an insult” to Tennessee.
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