KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee doesn’t believe Florida holds any sort of mental edge whenever these two teams stage their annual matchup.
Recent history suggests otherwise.
No. 19 Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten No. 14 Tennessee (3-0, 0-0) each of the last 11 years. Three times in the last four years, Tennessee was favored in the days leading up to the game but still found a way to lose. Tennessee is favored again in Saturday’s meeting at Neyland Stadium, though the spread has dropped from 10 points to 6 ½.
“We’ve got a bunch of confident guys on our team,” Tennessee defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said. “I don’t think there’s any mental edge anywhere.”
To end the streak, Tennessee must find a way to move the ball against a Florida team that leads the nation in total defense and scoring defense.
Gators cornerback Quincy Wilson boldly predicted a Florida victory by saying that “nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck. Florida Gators are going to win, simple as that.”
“It’s just something that we have instilled in us here at Florida that we just don’t lose to Tennessee,” Florida running back Jordan Scarlett said.
Tennessee has reason to believe it could end the streak this year.
Florida must turn to backup quarterback Austin Appleby for Saturday’s game after usual starter Luke Del Rio injured his left knee last week in a 32-0 victory over North Texas. Tennessee has its own injury issues with cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. sidelined by ankle injuries.
Tennessee has won nine straight games over the last two years. Tennessee coach Butch Jones believes his team gained strength in coming from behind to beat Appalachian State and Virginia Tech and by withstanding injuries to defeat Ohio .
“Our team is very confident,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “You don’t win nine games in a row by not having confidence. We’ve suffered some adversity. A lot of the adversity, some of it we created for ourselves. But I think that’s healthy because our football team could have quit under some adverse situations, and they’ve never blinked.”