When the No. 11 Florida Gators return to The Swamp this weekend, they'll do so after having spent a lot of its energy and fight just a week prior in a championship-caliber matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This week, they'll face off against another SEC opponent in the Tennessee Volunteers. While the talent level isn't the same as it was against Alabama, Florida shouldn't give in, and the Gators need to build up the momentum they got even in a close loss against Alabama just last week.
Head coach Dan Mullen sees the opportunity that Florida has in front of them, an ability to turn around and play a matchup that actually means more considering the Volunteers are in the same division as them, too.
"There's a lot that they can build off of that and obviously they're going to need. Quick turnaround, huge rivalry game against Tennessee coming up this weekend here at the Swamp," Mullen said on Monday.
"When you go into a big game like that, you come out with the physical wear and tear and the mental wear and tear of a big game. But we’ve got to turn that around quickly for even a bigger game this week."
It could appear difficult on paper to generate the same energy, enthusiasm, fight and everything that goes into playing the game of football playing a lesser opponent, but that's not the mindset Florida can have this weekend.
While the team hasn't lost to Tennessee since 2016, they also haven't played them coming off of a matchup quite as big as the one last weekend.
Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide - 2021
Against Alabama, Florida put on an impressive performance. After falling down 21-3 early in the contest and entering halftime, the Gators came out in the second half swinging, scoring 26 points, allowing just 10. The team would go on to lose the game by just two points.
It wasn't good enough, but there was certainly positive energy in the air, at least from some observers. Florida entered the contest as 15.5-point underdogs. They weren't expected to be in the game, at all. And yet, Florida found itself likely within a couple of minutes from upsetting the top team in the nation.
Still, the Gators, and head coach Dan Mullen aren't taking any moral victories from the contest. The team still lost, and there weren't very many smiles in the team meeting room just two days later.
"There wasn't much praise or happiness or smiles this morning in the team meeting, I can tell you that much because we didn't win the game, you know?" Mullen explained.
"So, as I said, there's some positive things that we can take out of it, and there's some things that we have to get corrected, and it's making sure we embrace that, you know, of, let's not lose what we did really well.
"You know, let's actually build off of what we did well and do it even better. And let's find a way to eliminate some of the errors and mistakes.'"
Certainly, Florida wasn't perfect against Alabama. There were too many mistakes, especially early, on defense that allowed the Crimson Tide to build an early lead. Offensively, the team couldn't seem to find a rhythm and an early interception from Emory Jones appeared to put Florida in a terrible position.
They rebounded from that, though, and were able to show the country that they do belong among the best. They'll have another opportunity to show that this week against the Volunteers.
Against a team that they're favored to beat by 20 points, more than what Alabama was expected to beat Florida by just last week, Florida will need to assert its dominance.
Perhaps, they will.
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