- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee has reason to believe it’s on the verge of ending nearly a decade of frustration against Florida.

The Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) are slight favorites Saturday as they attempt to end a nine-game losing streak in this annual series. This marks only the second time in the last 10 years Tennessee has been favored over the Gators. The Vols acknowledge their confidence level is higher than in previous meetings with Florida.

“It definitely feels different,” said Tennessee defensive tackle Jordan Williams, who grew up in Gainesville, Florida. “Last year, you could kind of see guys weren’t 100 percent in their confidence. This year, I feel everyone’s on the same page.”

Tennessee’s 35-32 loss at No. 13 Georgia in its SEC opener last week has given the Vols faith they can compete with just about anyone in the SEC. Florida (2-1, 1-1) eked out a 36-30 overtime win over Kentucky and lost 42-21 to No. 3 Alabama in its first two conference games.

The Gators had two weeks to prepare for Tennessee after the Alabama game and say they regrouped during the long layoff.

“We had to pull back together mentally and on and off the field,” Florida running back Matt Jones said. “We’ve gotten better as a team. I mean, it’s going to be tough because people throw stuff at us that we don’t want to hear, but we’re going to pull together and get these ‘W’s.”

The only previous time Tennessee was favored over Florida during its losing streak in this series came when the Gators last visited Knoxville in 2012. That 2012 Tennessee team featured eventual first-round draft picks Cordarrelle Patterson and Ja’Wuan James and second-round selection Justin Hunter. Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel said Neyland Stadium that night was “probably the loudest place I’ve played.”

Florida came from behind to beat Tennessee 37-20 and silenced that sellout crowd with a dominant fourth-quarter performance. The Gators would love to see history repeat itself Saturday.

“We pride ourselves on emptying the stadium, so we just want to go in and play hard and hopefully we get the same result as the last time we went in there,” Driskel said.

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Here are five things to watch Saturday when Tennessee hosts Florida.

TURNOVERS: Florida has 12 takeaways this season and just four giveaways this season to lead all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in turnover margin. Tennessee has committed five turnovers during its two-game losing streak. “You can’t have catastrophic mistakes,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “We have two turnovers (against Georgia) and both were catastrophic. One obviously gives them seven points, the other we were in scoring range and it takes at least three points off the board, possibly seven.”

THIRD DOWNS: Florida has converted just 34 percent of its third-down situations to rank 13th out of 14 SEC teams in that category. Tennessee leads all FBS teams in third-down conversion defense. The Vols have allowed opponents to convert on just 20.8 percent of their third-down opportunities.

WORLEY’S ELBOW: Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley left the loss to Georgia for three series after Bulldogs linebacker Jordan Jenkins’ helmet hit him in the right elbow. Worley has been practicing this week with a padded sleeve on that elbow and plans to wear it during Saturday’s game as well. “It’s a little sore, the typical bruise and a little bit of discomfort when I throw, but nothing major,” Worley said after Tuesday’s practice. “I should be 100 percent by Saturday.”

PASS PROTECTION: This game could come down to which quarterback has more time to throw. Florida is faring better in that regard thus far. The Gators have allowed only two sacks this season. Tennessee has given up 12 sacks, the most in the SEC. Tennessee’s young offensive line must find a way to contain standout Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.

GATORS’ SECONDARY CONCERNS: Florida has spent its layoff trying to boost its pass defense after getting picked apart through the air by Kentucky and No. 3 Alabama. The Gators gave up 369 yards passing to Kentucky - though they did have three interceptions in that game - and allowed 449 yards passing to Alabama. “We have not played well enough in the secondary,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

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AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Florida, contributed to this report.

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