UF vs. UT: SEC East tone-setter

Published: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 3:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 6:42 p.m.

Urban Meyer gets it.

He gets what a game like this is all about.

The pageantry. The history. The mystery.

“It's great to be able to coach in a game like this,” Meyer said this week.

After two games against inferior opponents, Florida's football team tests its SEC mettle for the first time Saturday when the Gators play host to Tennessee.

The players get it, too.

“These are the type of games that count for the University of Florida, these big games we play against big-time players,” said linebacker Dustin Doe. “I feel that's how you make yourself and establish your reputation.”

This game can't make a season, but it can certainly break one.

It's big. It's always big.

Who would want it any other way?

Both teams want it.

Tennessee needs it.

Florida doesn't care.

A victory Saturday is the goal for both teams in the annual rivalry game that sets the tone for the rest of the SEC season. In the 15 seasons since the SEC went to divisional play, the winner has played in the SEC championship game 10 times. The loser has made it only twice.

‘‘It’s always a big ball game,’’ UT coach Phillip Fulmer said.

“There's a different feel to a week like this,” Meyer said.

It's a big game for both teams but especially because the two football programs have gone in different directions since the last time the Vols beat the Gators. That was in 2004 in Knoxville on a controversial call and a long field goal by the Vols.

Since then, Florida has won an SEC title and a national championship and Meyer has gone 24-4 as the Gator coach. Tennessee has lost 14 times since that game and has a 15-11 record in its last 26 games.

So Tennessee needs it.

But there will be around 81,500 people (the Vols get 8,500 tickets) in The Swamp who want to see Florida run its winning streak against Tennessee to three games.

Today will be the first big-game start for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow while Tennessee's Erik Ainge is starting his 12th road game.

“It’s time to take it to another level,” Tebow said.

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