''I think the attitude the offensive line had set the tone for the game,'' says Vol offensive tackle Michael Munoz, who watched the 2001 Florida game on TV while recovering from major knee surgery. ''We were getting Travis Stephens into the secondary, and he was making people miss. That's key. That's what we need to do this year.''
Odds are, that's what the Vols WILL do this year. Tennessee is averaging a whopping 248.5 rushing yards per game, thanks in large part to the stellar work of Munoz, Sean Young, Chavis Smith, Anthony Herrera and Scott Wells.
''As an offensive line, we've really become a cohesive as a unit,'' Munoz says. ''We have an added focus and we've taken it upon our shoulders to be productive. The fact all the guys are buying into that -- knowing we need to run the ball -- is helping us be successful.''
Due to injuries and other difficulties, Tennessee was unable to run the ball effectively against Florida in 2002. The result was a 30-13 Gator romp at Neyland Stadium. Memories of that humiliation have the Vols looking for redemption.
''You definitely want to beat Florida any time you can, especially after losing last year the way we did and losing three years ago the way we did,'' Munoz said, referring to a controversial game-winning TD catch by Jabar Gaffney in the final seconds of the 2000 game. ''We definitely have something to prove. We want to go out there and play the game we know we can play.''
Vol offensive coordinator Randy Sanders believes his O-linemen will play quite well, even in the noisy and hostile environment of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
''Obviously, they have played with the crowd noise and they've been in that type of environment,'' Sanders said, ''so I don't think they'll get too caught up in the emotions, whether things go well or don't go well. I think they understand what it's all about and they'll tend to their business.''
Florida's defensive line is young and inexperienced, which should help Tennessee's O-linemen ''tend to their business.''
Another factor weighing in Tennessee's favor is the fact it has a senior quarterback, Casey Clausen, who will not be intimidated by the crowd noise or the enormity of this game.
''It's nice (having a senior quarterback),'' Sanders says. ''Also, having a guy who has won there before means a lot. Casey's always gotten excited about playing on the road ... the hostile environment where everybody hates you. His attitude is a little infectious and rubs off on the rest of the team. Hopefully, that'll be the case this year.''
With the blockers opening some holes and Clausen completing some passes to keep the Florida defense honest, Vol tailback Cedric Houston could be as productive in this year's Gator game as Travis Stephens was in the 2001 Florida game. That's why I think the Big Orange will avenge last year's homefield loss in Knoxville.
My pick: Tennessee 31, FLorida 24.