While the Tennessee-Alabama series may be the biggest annual game on the Volunteers’ schedule to the older generation, the Tennessee-Florida contest has developed into the marquee game of the calendar to the vast majority of Vol Nation since the rivalry heated up in the 90’s.

These days, UT coaches are judged by their success or failure in the series — unfortunately for Vol Nation, the failures are much easier to point out than the successes. While the annual rivalry has been lopsided in Florida’s favor for as long as most can remember, Jeremy Pruitt has an opportunity to turn the page on Tennessee’s failures and start a new chapter of the rivalry Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.

During his Monday afternoon press conference, Pruitt was asked to share his thoughts on the series as he sets to embark on the first Florida game of his Tennessee tenure.

“When I was growing up, it was always the first big SEC game of the year,” Tennessee’s coach noted. “When I was growing up, I always loved to watch it – always a lot of passion with both fan bases, a lot of tradition. I’m thankful to have the chance to be a part of it.”

Tennessee fans will be thankful Pruitt is now involved in he delivers a win on Saturday, that’s for sure. To do so, he’ll have to match wits with Florida coach Dan Mullen. The defensive-minded Pruitt and the offensive-minded Mullen have gone against one another for years in the SEC, with Pruitt’s team coming out on top each time.

Pruitt was asked to share his thoughts on preparing his Tennessee team for facing Mullen’s offense for the first time this season.

“His offenses are always very physical. They’re sound. They’re very well coached. They give you different looks,” Pruitt commented. “If you look over the years, he adapts to the players that he has. He’s very multiple.

“It’s always tough to get them off the field on third downs. They’ve always been the team that runs the ball a lot on third downs. You have to be conscious of that. He will go for it on fourth down. Over the course of his career, they’re tough to keep to field goals in the red area.”

It remains to be seen which side has the better roster, but Tennessee has to feel good about Pruitt’s previous success against Mullen heading into this matchup. In each of those previous matchups, Pruitt had the talent advantage coaching at Alabama (against Mullen’s Mississippi State teams) and will now have to win without having a clear advantage in talent across the board.

Do that, and Pruitt will be welcome in Knoxville as long as he pleases.