UT-UF game sets tone

Don't listen to anyone who says tonight's Tennessee-Florida shootout is just a football game. The team that wins this early season showdown usually goes on to win the SEC East championship.

The Vols beat the Gators en route to winning or sharing division titles in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2004. The Gators beat the Vols en route to East championships in 1993, '94, '95, '96, '99 and 2000.

"Obviously, it's a huge game in the SEC," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said this week. "The game has meant a great amount to the team that wins it and it puts the other in chase mode. We've been on both sides."

First-year Florida head man Urban Meyer admits he knows very little about the Vol-Gator rivalry. Asked what he would tell his coaching counterpart, Fulmer quipped: "I wouldn't tell him anything."

He'll find out soon enough. Right?

As big as the Florida game is, Fulmer noted that it is not a be-all/end-all game. It is one step on the path to the title … albeit a very big step.

"There's not an end-all game; anything can happen during the course of a year," the coach said.

Still, the winner of the Vol-Gator game gets a leg up in the title hunt, and that's significant. Conversely, the loser faces an uphill battle just to get back in the chase for the SEC East crown.

"You'd like to not be in chase mode," Fulmer said. "This game is huge, as far as being a step toward that."

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