Every year, Florida Gators fans circle on their calendars and remind themselves to avoid the color orange. Florida head coach Billy Napier understands the rivalry with the Tennessee Volunteers very well.
“I do think it’s a big week,” Napier said. “It’s Tennessee week.”
Napier said the Gators coaching staff is doing everything they can to educate the current generation of players about the historic SEC rivalry, but also states the veterans are more than aware of the importance of the beef between the two historic programs.
This Saturday will be the 53rd edition of the showdown and the beginning of Florida’s conference slate.
“It’s time for SEC play,” Napier said. “This is an Eastern Division opponent, as well. So, there’s a magnitude of that. I think it’s a big weekend for Gator Nation.”
The second-year head coach isn’t looking down on the Vols.
In fact, Napier stated the SEC rival looks fully prepared for the trip to The Swamp.
“I think when you start thinking about their team… (Tennessee) has an identity,” Napier said. “They have a veteran team. There is a significant number of seniors. There’s a ton of experience there. I think they have good personnel and they present variables on defense and tempo on offense. They’ve done a good job on special teams.”
The No. 11 Volunteers shut down the offenses of Virginia and Austin Peay, holding them both to 13 points. Florida found their stride against FCS opponent McNeese State in week two, but the Volunteers are built like a College Football Playoff team.
The preparedness of the Gator defense is up for debate, considering they were toasted in Salt Lake City by Utes backup quarterback Bryce Barnes.
Although the defense looked worrisome, Napier believes they’ve turned things around.
“There’s no doubt I’m confident that we’re much improved on defense. We talked about it in the pre-season. I think we’re going to continue to get better, too, because there’s a lot of young players out there playing.”
Redshirt junior Jaydon Hill brings the most experience to the Gators as a defensive back. The entirety of UF’s starting lineup is made up of five juniors, five sophomores, and two freshmen.
The Florida Gators and Volunteers headline the SEC matchups this week and will kick off at 7 p.m. EDT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.