What's at Stake: Pride. They can shrug it off all they want, but Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and Co. want to keep the scoreboard operator in the Swamp very, very busy during this game. If they get a chance to name their score, Meyer and Tebow will. Also: Imagine a world where the Gators win this game by less than 20 points. Is there any question that some of the talking heads will portray that as a "moral victory" for the Vols and a sign that Florida "might not be as good as we all thought they were"? It would be a ridiculous way to view it, but Florida comes into this contest facing an expectation that they will clock Tennessee; anything less will be portrayed as a disappointment.
Where It Falls on Tennessee's Schedule: It's the first road game, coming after Knoxville tilts against Western Kentucky and UCLA. Afterward, the schedule goes Ohio, Auburn and Georgia -- all In Neyland -- before a bye week and the rivalry game in Tuscaloosa. Things calm down from there, but not much. In any case, there won't be many distractions for the Vols.
Where It Falls on Florida's Schedule: Right after a couple of tasty cupcakes -- Charleston Southern and Troy -- come to Gainesville for their paydays before going back to FCS play and its functional equivalent (i.e., Sun Belt games.) After this game, the Gators go to Lexington and then get a week off before the SEC stretch run: at LSU, Arkansas, at Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, at South Carolina. So the Vols should have the Gators undivided attention. Doesn't that just make you feel great, Tennessee fans?
What Happened This Past Season: One of the worst Florida offensive performances of the year. Tim Tebow was held to 96 yards passing, no Gator rushed for more than 55 yards and Tennessee actually outgained Florida 258-243. But the Vols turned the ball over three times and Florida walked out of Rocky Top with a 30-6 win.
What Will Decide the Game This Year: "I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee. For instance: running through the 'T,' singing 'Rocky Top' all night long after we beat Florida next year."
Tennessee Will Probably Win If ... Swine flu tears through the Florida locker room two days before the game and Tennessee is forced to use reserve offensive lineman Nick Alajajian as quarterback. Something slightly more possible: Monte Kiffin figures out some way to slow down the Gator offense and Tennessee makes a couple of big and/or lucky plays to win a 10-7 type of game.
Florida Will Probably Win If ... The Gators are half as good as we think they are. Remember, the early line on this game was 27 points. And Lane Kiffin is right, to an extent, when he points out that Florida was going to try to scores as many points as possible even before he stuck his foot in his mouth. Even if Tennessee surprises to the upside this season, it's hard to see them being that much of a surprise.
Conclusion: No one is going to be disappointed, except maybe the hardline Tennessee fans who envision a win. This game might not "shape" the SEC in the traditional sense of the word, but it will set the tone for the SEC portion of Florida's season, a fact that no one in Gainesville will miss. Meyer's teams rarely forget to show up for this kind of game. Tennessee fans need only ask Georgia how Florida responds to being disrespected. It's become almost cliched at this point to say this game will be a blowout. That's probably because it's true.