Vols have no chance

Phillip Fulmer isn't surprised that two-thirds of the respondents to a Knoxville News-Sentinel poll believe No. 4 Florida will thump Tennessee by 10 points or more Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

"I don't think anybody in the nation is giving us a chance," Tennessee's head coach said earlier today. "Nobody I've talked to has, except a couple of my buddies ... and I think my wife ... I'm not sure."

After opening as a 5- to 6-point favorite, Florida now ranks as a 7- to 8-point pick, according to Las Vegas bookmakers. That means most bettors are putting their money on the Gators and giving the points, even though the game is in Knoxville.

That isn't terribly surprising, since Florida has won the last three meetings in the series, including a 59-20 annihilation last year in Gainesville.

"We haven't done as well in three years as we would like to do," Fulmer noted. "That's the most important thing."

Considering that Florida is rolling, coupled with the fact Tennessee lost to a mediocre UCLA team and struggled with a bad UAB team, the cynicism toward the Vols is understandable.

Of course, Tennessee was given even less chance to win in 2001, when the Vols were 17-point underdogs against a second-ranked Gator team coached by Steve Spurrier. Tennessee beat the odds and won that game 34-32, however.

"That 2001 game was special," Fulmer recalled. "They weren't going to be denied. They found a way to get it done against a very good team. I think we were an 18-point underdog going into the game, which was absurd."

He has a point. The '01 Vols were 9-1 and ranked No. 5 nationally heading into the Florida game. Conversely, the '08 Vols are 1-1 and unranked. No wonder nearly three-fourths of the respondents to the News-Sentinel survey (73 percent) picked Florida, with nearly two-thirds (66 percent) saying the margin will be 10 points or more.

Like Tennessee's head coach, Tennessee's players were more motivated than agitated to learn that their own fans think they will lose decisively this weekend.

"Tennessee is always the underdog since I've been here," sophomore receiver Gerald Jones said. "We like that. We take it to our advantage. We like to prove people wrong (when they think) we're not as good or don't have the athletes Florida has.

"It's not about the athletes. It's about who's the best on that day."

Junior defensive end Wes Brown agreed that having your own fans pick against you is added incentive, not that the Vols need any.

"You don't need any alternative motivation for this game," he said. "When it's Tennessee-Florida, that's enough motivation in itself. Obviously, when you hear people bickering about 'When are we going to beat Florida?' and 'You don't have a chance,' that serves as motivation to prove people wrong.

"And that's what we plan to do."

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