No. 14 Vols try to end 11-year skid against No. 19 Gators
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 +.
''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.''
Each of the last two seasons, Florida has come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat Tennessee by a single point. The Gators won 10-9 in 2014 and 28-27 last year .
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 kn ee 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.''
Some things to watch when Tennessee hosts Florida.
WELCOME BACK: Florida should have its leading receiver back for this game, as Antonio Callaway has returned to practice after missing the North Texas game with a deep thigh bruise. Tennessee offensive tackle Chance Hall likely will make his first appearance of the season Saturday after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month.
FLORIDA PASS RUSH: Florida has 16 sacks to lead all Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Five different Gators have recorded at least two sacks each. Tennessee gave up three sacks against Ohio last week and has struggled to come up with the right combination of five linemen to have on the field.
CONTAINING DOBBS: Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs only threw for 87 yards against Florida last season, but he also rushed for 136 yards and had a 58-yard touchdown catch. ''We know how much of a threat he is and how much he can hurt you if you allow him to,'' Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis said. ''Last year he put a hurting on us pretty bad.''
ANOTHER BACKUP QB: Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, will try to continue a recent tradition in this rivalry. Two of the last three years, a backup quarterback has helped Florida beat Tennessee. Tyler Murphy replaced an injured Jeff Driskel and led Florida to a 31-17 triumph in 2013 . Treon Harris took over for an ineffective Driskel and rallied the Gators in 2014.
FAMILY CONNECTIONS: Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is the brother of John Shoop, who worked with Appleby as Purdue's offensive coordinator in 2013-15. Shoop acknowledged he had spoken to his brother this week and heard the former Purdue assistant's impressions of the 6-foot-4 Appleby. ''My brother gave him a tremendous compliment, he compared (Appleby) to Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket,'' Shoop said. ''He said (Appleby's) a big, strong kid. We're very well aware of that. You get him in the pocket, he's got people hanging on his body and can throw the ball.''
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Florida contributed to this report.
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