GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 24 Florida is trying to avoid another significant setback under coach Jim McElwain.

Two weeks after losing a season opener for the first time in 28 years, the Gators are facing the possibility of starting 0-2 for the first time since 1971. Sure, Hurricane Irma wiped out a likely victory against overmatched Northern Colorado of the Football Championship Subdivision . But what will become a footnote does little to diminish the importance of Saturday’s home and Southeastern Conference opener against 23rd-ranked Tennessee (2-0).

It’s likely the most important game in McElwain’s three seasons, a chance to erase lingering feelings from that humbling loss to Michigan in the opener or create the kind of early season hole no Florida team has seen in nearly five decades.

“This is a big game, huge game,” Gators linebacker David Reese said. “You could look at this game as almost like a do-or-die type of game. It’s like a real big point, a fork in the road.”

Florida is 3-8 against Top-25 teams under McElwain, with six of those losses coming against three of the nation’s top programs: Alabama, Florida State and Michigan. Losing to rival Tennessee for the second straight year and at home — the Volunteers haven’t won in Gainesville since 2003 — and McElwain surely will start feeling some heat.

“One of the great lessons you learn in athletics and especially the game of football is sometimes you get knocked down,” McElwain said. “The measure of a true man is how he gets back up, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

McElwain was talking about rebounding from Irma. He easily could have been talking about the opener.

Source: Fox Sports
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