Florida head coach Urban Meyer,left, watches quarterback Tim Tebow, right, and other players warm up a footballl game against Charleston Southern in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
KNOXVILLE -- The NCAA frowns on gambling, and it's hard to find reliable information on the history of betting lines.
But good luck finding anyone who can find the last time Tennessee went into a football game as a 30-point underdog.
That was the case as of Friday night, according to many Web sites, and it could still ring true when the Volunteers kick off today at 3:30 p.m. against top-ranked and reigning national champion Florida.
Eleven years after winning the national championship, and two years after appearing in the Southeastern Conference championship game, the Volunteers are expected to lose a game by more than four touchdowns.
"Hey, the game's still going to be played," UT senior linebacker Rico McCoy said earlier this week. "I don't have nothing else to say about that right now. I'll let the playing speak for itself.
"That's just a number they threw out before the game. We determine if that happens or not."
Florida will have a hand in it, too. And it's seemed personal to the Gators since Lane Kiffin took UT's head-coaching position Dec. 1 and immediately starting hurling verbal haymakers at them.
Kiffin apologized for "getting a little out of hand" during a February recruiting celebration and calling Gators coach Urban Meyer a "cheater."
The youngest coach in major college football has steadfastly maintained that his Florida comments were designed to bring attention to the Vols rather than personally insult anyone or any program.
The Gators still seem irritated, though. Offensive lineman Matt Pachan recently called Kiffin a "bozo," but Florida's players were forbidden to say Kiffin's name to the media all week. Linebacker Ryan Stamper's interview period was cut short when he simply mentioned classmates talking about "the whole Lane Kiffin thing."
"OK. Thanks, Ryan," interjected a Florida spokesperson.
Meyer said Sunday that he and his players would rather let the team's game performance do the talking.
Kiffin has consistently acted as if he didn't understand why his words caused such a fuss, but he's conceded that Florida will "pull out all the stops ... to score as many points as possible."
"I don't know how it could be more intense," Kiffin said. "You've got a big-time rivalry with two teams, one that every year both teams come to play. Florida has dominated, obviously, lately with four in a row, and by 64 points over the last two years combined.
"There's been motivation over there, and I don't think I motivated them. I wasn't here yet."
Now that Kiffin's at UT, he said his Vols won't need to be called underdogs to play with passion.
"I don't really believe in the underdog role for motivation," he said. "If you're not motivated for this game, something's wrong with you. It's Tennessee versus Florida, and regardless of what the spread is and who's the favorite and who's the underdog, it's a big-time matchup -- one that a lot of these kids have watched for years when they were growing up.
"I would be shocked that either side needs to motivate their players."