"You go back to the nineties and see all the great players in the game," Will Muschamp said Monday morning. "It's a pivotal game because it's the next one and it's always been the opener for both schools in the (SEC) East. You certainly get a leg up and obviously it's an important game."
This one has a different feel. It's the first game for Muschamp against an assistant coach that he knows well. He worked on staff at LSU with current Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. The two worked under Nick Saban at LSU, along with current Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
Saturday is the first game for Muschamp against a rival coached by one of his good friends. Their relationship has changed, as they don't talk as much now that they have jobs at rival universities. It shows the success of that coaching staff, but it's not something he enjoys in the moment.
"You'd rather not go against your friends," Muschamp said. "The bottom line is that he's going to do the best thing for his team on Saturday, and I'm going to do the best thing that I can for my team."
No team in America has a better scoring defense than the 1.5 points per game Florida averages allowing this season. That defense will be put to the test on Saturday in The Swamp.
Quarterback Tyler Bray comes to Gainesville as the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week. In two games this season, the sophomore has completed 78.5% (51-of-65) of his passes for 698 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions.
"He's very accurate," Muschamp said. "A lot of those have been vertical passes down the field and (they) can catch the ball. They do a nice job with the tight ends. They take the ball to different spots. We're going to need to do a good job with taking guys down the field, mixing up coverages."
Bray has benefited from two talented receivers to throw to. The sophomore duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers has combined for five touchdowns through the first two games. Hunter has caught 16 passes for 302 yards, including a long of 81 yards. Rogers has caught 15 balls for 200 yards.
They combine to create nightmares for defensive coaches.
"They are size guys; that is one thing that jumps out at you," Muschamp said. "They have vertical speed down the field. It's what they do with the ball after they catch it. They're both really good football players. Everyone recruited them, and everyone in the country wanted them. They've done a nice job getting the ball to those guys in different situations vertically down the field and in the quick passing game to make sure they get them the ball and get their touches. "
The Florida defense didn't record a sack against UAB over the weekend, and that has to change if the Gators want to give Bray problems. The defense will get a boost from the return of defensive end Sharrif Floyd.
Muschamp issued a spirited statement about his sophomore defensive lineman last week, and his opinion hasn't changed. He's excited for Floyd to return.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him play," Muschamp said. "First of all, he's a nice young man. Secondly, he's a great football player. We're excited to have him back."
UAB RECAP: After watching the film of the 39-0 win over the Blazers, there is still plenty for Muschamp and his staff to teach this week. Muschamp started the press conference with his frustration of what he counted as six undisciplined penalties, including off sides or alignment penalties on offense.
"That is something I won't tolerate," Muschamp said.
The red zone offense also struggled and settled for three field goals, but Muschamp thinks it was communication problems that can be fixed. The defensive frustrations came from a different angle.
"It was a little disappointing that we repped some things and prepared for but didn't play them very well on game day," Muschamp said. "We just need to execute better. We need to take it from meetings, to practice, to the game."
Chris Rainey was named offensive player of the week. The Scrap Iron award, which goes to the offensive lineman of the week, went to Dan Wenger for the second straight week. The extra effort award went to Mike Gillislee.
Muschamp singled out Lerentee McCray as playing "one of his best games." The Ball Hawk award went to safety Matt Elam for creating a turnover. Darrin Kitchens was named the special teams player of the week.
"We are real proud of Darrin," Muschamp said. "He is a guy who really understands his role on the team at this point. He was productive in our kick units and covering. As a kick-off coverage unit he has contributed a lot."
The big play award went to Andre Debose for his kickoff return to open the game.
INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Jeremy Brown will try to play again after a knee injury has held him out of the first two games. Running back Jeff Demps (shoulder) and tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) "should be fine" for Saturday.
A.C. Leonard will also attempt to start practicing again on Monday.
HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR POWELL: Ronald Powell has one sack and five tackles in the first two games of the season, but Muschamp wants to see more. He hasn't been disruptive enough in the pass rush.
"We would like for him to have more production," Muschamp said. "I think as far as affecting the quarterback he had some nice hits the other night while pressuring the quarterback, as it was a timing passing game. I think he's playing well at the point of attack in the run-game. He needs to be more of a productive player with sacks and hits."
FAMILIAR FOE: Dooley won't be the only familiar name on the opposing sideline Saturday. Tennessee freshman linebacker Curt Maggitt has started each of the first two games for the Volunteers. He chose to attend Tennessee instead of Florida after graduating from Dwyer High School last year.
"The first thing he shows is that he has great initial quickness off the ball and natural pass rush ability," Muschamp said. "He plays hard, comes from a great program down at Dwyer (High School). It's hard to project how a guy is going to do. We certainly thought he had good ability and that's why we recruited him. We felt like we got some good guys from Dwyer and we are excited about the guys we got."
MANAGING RAINEY: Rainey has touched the ball 36 times in the first two games. Listed at 5-9, 174 pounds on the roster, the coaches have to be smart with the number of touches he gets.
"We're mindful of that during the game plan process," Muschamp said. "The thing that Charlie does a great job with is, ‘these are the touches we want to get' – from a receiving or running standpoint. How many inside runs you're going to call, those sorts of things. He does a great job of balancing that as far as their number of touches. They need to touch the ball and every time they touch the ball they have a chance to take it the distance."