The Florida-LSU rivalry never seems to run short on vitriol. LSU defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois upped the ante this week by vowing that his linemates, if the opportunity presents itself, will try to knock Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, out of the game.
"If we get a good shot on [Tebow], we're going to try our best to take him out of the game," Jean-Francois said Monday, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Web site. "With his size and his heart, it's hard to get a clean shot.
"I think every lineman wants to get a good hit on a Heisman Trophy winner."
This year's clash, at the Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday night, didn't need the extra hype. It's the first time in nearly two decades that the past two national champions are to meet during the regular season.
Jean-Francois' remark "fires Tim up. Seems a little unsportsmanlike to me," Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said Tuesday. "Intentionally injuring other players is not part of the game that we teach here."
Tebow took a neutral but cautionary tone when he addressed Jean-Francois' comments after Tuesday's practice.
"I'm a competitor, so I think he wasn't meaning it like a lot of people took it," Tebow said, according to the Palm Beach Post. "I don't think it's ever a good thing to talk trash, because I think all it does is really fire your opponent up. At least I know that's how it is for me. I think otherwise too many people get fired up and get more competitive."
Later in the day, Jean-Francois issued a statement through LSU that said, "We never go into any football game trying to hurt a player from the other team. My comments in regard to Florida quarterback Tim Tebow were misinterpreted and were intended to reflect the style of football that we play at LSU.
"We have great respect for Tim as a player and a competitor. By taking him out of the game, I meant as a defense we are going to try to make him ineffective. I'm sorry that my initial comments were interpreted another way."
The home team has never lost in a matchup of the past two national champions. Fourth-ranked LSU is off to a 4-0 start and has defeated No. 11 Florida three times in four meetings since 2004, including a 28-24 victory last season in Baton Rouge, La.
The Gators (4-1, 2-1) trail Vanderbilt (5-0, 3-0) in the SEC East and come Saturday will be two weeks removed from their stunning 31-30 loss to Ole Miss at the Swamp.
Gators linebacker Brandon Hicks told the Sentinel that his defense hasn't forgotten last year's loss to the Tigers, in which LSU scored with 1:09 left for the winning margin.
"OK, this is the game," Hicks told the paper. "This week, there's nothing else that really matters. There's no worrying about the bye week after LSU. It's just nothing but 8 p.m. this Saturday night. We've got a chip on our shoulders, a fire in our eyes to kick somebody's butt."
Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.