Gators coach Jim McElwain: Tennessee ‘should beat the heck out of us’

The Gators have not lost to Tennessee since 2004.

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) takes a pass reception 63 yards for the winning touchdown against Tennessee in the fourth quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) takes a pass reception 63 yards for the winning touchdown against Tennessee in the fourth quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

But the Volunteers are still widely considered to be the favorites to win the SEC East this upcoming season. In fact, ESPN’s Preseason Football Power Index gives the Gators the third-best chance of winning the division behind Tennessee and Georgia.

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This is all despite Florida owning an 11-game winning streak over Tennessee, and winning the SEC East last season. Coach Jim McElwain doesn’t mind that Tennessee is already being picked to finish ahead of the Gators, though.

“I’m sure that they should be and should beat the heck out of us,” McElwain said of the Volunteers on Wednesday on the SEC football spring teleconference. “We’ll just be lucky to show up.”

McElwain probably isn’t serious about that, but it’s one of his tactics to keep Florida under the radar and disarm rivals. He made a similar comment before then-No. 25 Florida took on then-No. 3 Ole Miss in October last season.

“Now we get a chance to go test ourselves against a great opponent that obviously, probably should beat the heck out of us,” McElwain said before the matchup.

Well, the Gators ended up defeating the Rebels 38-10.

Florida and Tennessee players went back and forth on social media last month talking trash. McElwain didn’t have a problem with it.

“That’s up to them,” McElwain said. “You got to go out and play. I don’t get caught up in it. Yet, that’s how a lot of people communicate today. It’s the society we live in.”