Urban Meyer recognizes this week’s game between the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee is a big one, but the Gators’ head coach stops short of calling it his team’s biggest of the season.
“The one thing about the SEC and the games here … I’ve been at places where there’s ‘that one big game,’” Meyer said Wednesday on the weekly SEC coaches’ conference call. “We’ve had to tone down the ‘one big game’ thing because there’s about six big games coming up here.”
The 39th meeting between the schools (2:30 p.m., Saturday, WTVF-Ch. 5) will be the conference opener for both.
The top-ranked Gators, who outscored their first two opponents by a combined 118-9, will play their eight conference games consecutively, beginning with this one. That stretch will include a trip to nationally ranked LSU and their annual rivalry game with Georgia. They also will play non-conference, in-state foe Florida State in their final game of the regular season.
“Tennessee’s always big,” Meyer said. “I think the thing that makes it big is the fact this is number one. This is it. … This is our first SEC match. … Everybody knows this is going to be a four-quarter dogfight.”
First-year UT coach Lane Kiffin agreed that the start of conference play fuels the emotion surrounding this contest. In so doing, he also continued to downplay the notion that public comments he made during the offseason regarding recruiting and on-field battles with Florida are a factor.
“It happens to be the next game on the schedule,” Kiffin said during his portion of the conference call. “We’re excited to start SEC play and we’re excited to keep improving as a team and individually. There’s nothing personally exciting about going there and playing or the matchup or any of that.”
Whatever the reasons, Meyer promised his team and its fans will be more emotional than they would for just any game.
“When you play a non-rival you have to try to cheer (the players) up and get going and darn near be cheerleaders as a staff,” he said. “ This one you just have to make sure (they have) attention to detail and focus.
“… The atmosphere here at Florida will be second to none. I know that.”