While it is Butch Jones' initial season in the SEC, the first-year UT coach understands what is on the line for his Tennessee Volunteers when they travel to Gainesville, Fla. on Saturday to take on the Florida Gators.
Not only does he realize the importance of starting off conference play on the right note, but also the great tradition that SEC play entails.
"It's a great rivalry, but in order for us to continue to make this rivalry we have to start winning some of these football games," Jones said of the Tennessee-Florida game, which the Vols have been on the losing side of for the past eight seasons.
This week Jones gave Team 117 an early look at what they will come up against in the Swamp this weekend.
Game week preparation at Haslam Field has consisted of not only the Florida fight song playing on the loud speakers, but of the scout team wearing blue jerseys with a Gators decal on their helmets.
"It prepares you for the atmosphere we will see Saturday with the band noise, the gator chomp and the fans," senior defensive end Corey Miller said. "I think our guys understand what is at stake here and we need to play hard."
Junior defensive end Jordan Williams, a Gainesville native, has a deep understanding of what goes into the UT-Florida rivalry.
"There's a lot of strong history," Williams said. "I remember growing up every time they played, it would be all over the TV. I feel like now that it's here it's time to get out there and get after it."
Cy Young Under Center
The starting quarterback job is up for grabs between Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson.
Jones made it clear he will pick the starter based on who is most prepared and performed the most consistent in practice this week.
He is looking for a quarterback that can have an effectiveness running the football, but also provide leadership with a knack for victory.
"We're in a performance-based business," Jones said. "I told our quarterbacks that the starting quarterback is the equivalent of a starting pitcher in baseball. At the end of the day, you're measured on wins and losses."
Dobbs and Ferguson have a fighting chance, as Jones made it clear he is not afraid to give one of the highly touted newcomers snaps in the hostile road environment.
The last time the Vols started a true freshman against Florida happens to be the last time the Vols beat the Gators.
In 2004, Brent Schaeffer started and split time with Erik Ainge – also a freshman – as UT squeaked past Florida 30-28 at Neyland Stadium.
Emotional Game for Randolph
In the Vols 37-20 home loss to Florida last season, Brian Randolph suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the third quarter.
A year later, the redshirt sophomore safety is back on the field and one of the difference-makers on the Tennessee defense. He ranks second on the team in tackles with 14 and leads the team with two interceptions.
"It's a good feeling," Randolph said. "I'm going to try and cheer like it's any other game, not going to try to get too worked up about it. There's definitely going to be something in the back of my head that will make me realize this is the game I got hurt in last year.
"I'm blessed to be able to go out there and play again."