GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If Tennessee is going to end its latest losing streak against Florida, Neyland Stadium is the place to do it.
The Gators are 21-1 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Urban Meyer’s three-plus years as head coach.
But in Florida’s last five games away from The Swamp, they’re 2-3. That includes a 41-35 loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, a 42-30 loss to Georgia in Jacksonville and a 28-24 loss to LSU at Tiger Stadium.
Meyer has a simple explanation for that.
“To win on the road, you have to play great defense,” Meyer said. “You have to be tough. And you have to take care of the ball.
“Last year, we were not a tough football team, we didn’t take care of the ball and we didn’t play great defense. In the games on the road, we got out-toughed.
“If you want to beat Tennessee, you better play tough, you better play great defense and you better take care of the ball.”
Florida, which enters Neyland Stadium on Saturday with a three-game winning streak against the Vols, lost only one road game in 2006 when it won the national championship. But even when Florida has won on the road under Meyer, it rarely has looked as dominant as it has at home.
In Meyer’s first season at Florida, the Gators were 3-3 away from home, including a bowl victory. Two of those three victories were by seven points or fewer. In 2006, all four of the Gators’ regular-season road victories were by seven points or fewer.
Florida’s biggest road victory under Meyer came when it mattered most. The Gators beat Ohio State 41-14 for the national championship.
No Big Deal: Although Florida defeated Tennessee 59-20 last season, that doesn’t appear to have had a carryover effect with the Gators.
“We can beat them bad one year, and they could beat us bad one year,” Florida sophomore linebacker Brandon Hicks said.
Said quarterback Tim Tebow: “If you play well one week, big deal. You’ve got to play well every week.”
After routing the Vols last season, Florida lost three conference games, and UT won the SEC East.
Same Old Vols: Although UT has a new offensive coordinator in Dave Clawson, Meyer doesn’t see a big change.
“They’re really not that much different,” he said.
“Our defensive coaches think their running back (Arian Foster) is one of the best we’ve seen. Their offensive line is a strength, and they like to take shots downfield (passing).
“I think they will want to try to establish the run and pound the ball. It has been that way for quite awhile.”
In an overall assessment of his past encounters with the Vols, Meyer said, “They’re as talented a team as I’ve coached against.”
Extra Points: Since Meyer’s first team at Bowling Green in 2001, his teams have had fewer offensive turnovers than any team in the nation. That includes two teams at Bowling Green, two at Utah and three at Florida. … Although Florida is known as a passing team, the Gators have outrushed 35 opponents under Meyer. … Twelve different Florida players carried the ball in the first two games, and 10 players had pass receptions.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.