KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Once the marquis matchup of the SEC East - maybe the entire conference - Florida versus Tennessee has lost some luster with recent years of Gator dominance.
Just don't tell the Volunteers that.
``This is still the game,'' wide receiver Gerald Jones said. ``This is still the game of the year for us and for Florida, regardless of what they say. It's always going to be this great tradition between the two schools.''
Florida and Tennessee have combined to represent the East division 13 out of the 16 years that there's been a Southeastern Conference title game. And in every season since the series became an annual event in 1990, both teams have been ranked in The Associated Press poll.
Except this year.
and to prove that an early loss to UCLA was just a fluke.
The Vols also want to prove that Florida's 59-20 rout a year ago was an aberration.
Florida led by only eight points in the third quarter before the Gators blew open the game with three straight touchdowns.
Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes didn't let the Vols forget the end of that game, saying earlier this week that Tennessee players gave up before it was over.
The Vols took a large markerboard this week and scrawled the words ``Tennessee quit last year'' across it, and placed it near the team's indoor practice field.
``It's not even part of our vocabulary,'' Tennessee defensive end Wes Brown said.
The only way Brown and his teammates will be able to quiet the Gators' antagonizing and return the Florida-Tennessee matchup to its lofty perch is with a win - something that might only come with the help of Tennessee tailbacks Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty.
In the past five years, the team that gained more yards on the ground won, and in its last three losses to Florida, Tennessee averaged only 30.6 yards rushing.
Jonathan Crompton has been inconsistent at best in control of Tennessee's offense, with three interceptions and two touchdowns this season. The Vols have plenty of talent at wide receiver, but the passing game hasn't had much rhythm.
f balance.
``If we want to go win this game, let's not say, ``Hey, let's go beat Tennessee,''' Meyer said. ``You better play great defense that day. You better have toughness and you better take care of the football or there's no chance of winning that game.''
That shouldn't be too hard for an improved Gators unit that ranks third nationally in total defense, having allowed an average 190.5 yards through two games.
Florida struggled with its own rhythm on offense against Miami two weeks ago, but Meyer said he felt a bit better about the performance after watching tape.
Plus, he'll have a healthy Percy Harvin. After resting for much of the Gators' first two games after offseason heel surgery, Harvin said he hasn't felt so good since the 10th grade.
Harvin, quarterback Tim Tebow and running back Brandon James combined for more than 600 all-purpose yards against Tennessee last year.
``They've got a lot of playmakers at Florida. They've got guys that can spread it all over the field,'' Brown said. ``It's going to take each guy knowing their technique, their man and knowing their spot.''
Tennessee should be encouraged by the fact that it's playing at Neyland Stadium, where the Vols have a nine-game winning streak and recorded their last win over Florida in 2004.
But Tebow said he loves playing in hostile conditions and thrives off opposing fans yelling and throwing things at him.
The returning Heisman Trophy winner made one of his first big plays as a freshman at Neyland Stadium two years ago - a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 with the Gators trailing 20-14. They scored two plays later and held on to win 21-20, en route to an SEC championship and national title.
Tebow hopes this game is the start of another championship run.
``I don't think I have to tell anything to my teammates about how big this game is,'' he said. ``They already know that, especially the ones that have been around for a while and realize what a big rivalry game this is.''

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