Florida head coach Billy Napier was complimentary of Tennessee and head coach Josh Heupel during his Monday press conference.
However, at the same time, it did seem like Napier was downplaying the Tennessee atmosphere that is expected inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
Napier spoke about Tennessee’s environment while discussing the challenge ahead for quarterback Anthony Richardson in his first SEC road start.
“It’s not like we’re going to Canada and they’re going to change the rules,” Napier said on Monday via Brent McMurphy. “It’s going to be the same game. It’s going to be a little louder and played at a different location.”
Florida coach Billy Napier on QB Anthony Richardson’s 1st SEC road start at Tennessee: “It's not like we're going to Canada & they're going to change the rules. It's going to be the same game. It's going to be a little louder & played at a different location”
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) September 19, 2022
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Maybe it was intentional, maybe it was just the way the wording came out. But at the end of the day, Tennessee is certainly expecting to boast a crowd that is more than “a little louder” than Napier’s comparison.
Let’s backtrack a few days.
After Tennessee was awarded the No. 15 ranking in the country following the victory over Pittsburgh, Vol fans rapidly started purchasing tickets to see this team with their own eyes. The Vols just sold out a game against Akron, a team that came to Knoxville with a 1-1 record and never stood a chance against Tennessee. That’s not 80,000 or 90,000 people, either.
A sold-out crowd in Knoxville is 101,915.
The Akron sellout was just the tip of the iceberg for the two-week stretch that includes the Zips and the Gators. If anything, Saturday night was a warm-up, a dress rehearsal for fans ahead of this Saturday’s rivalry game.
Tennessee fans are starving for a victory over Florida. The Vols only have one victory over the Gators in the last 17 years.
As if just the recent 1-16 record against Florida or the 3-0 start to the season weren’t enough, there have been even more added factors going into this game that presumably will raise the atmosphere that much more.
Tennessee announced on Sunday that Checker Neyland will be in effect for the game against Florida. Not only that, ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Knoxville for the first time since 2016. In that game, Tennessee did defeat Florida.
Sure, it is certainly the same game of football that will be played between the lines this Saturday afternoon. But that different location is projecting to be a whole different animal.
The statement from Billy Napier isn’t bulletin board material for the Tennessee football team. It’s bulletin board material for a starving fanbase that will have nearly 102,000 people checkerboarded throughout Neyland Stadium. And that should provide for a lot more than “a little louder.”