UT LOOKS TO END 7-GAME SKID TO GATORS
I said back earlier in the summer that this is the biggest game on UT’s schedule. It’s now even bigger than I thought. ESPN College GameDay has chosen it for the site of their show and ESPN will show the game at 6 p.m. on the Mothership. The Gators will travel to Knoxville this weekend ranked 18th in the country and will be looking to defeat the Vols for the 8th straight time. The last time UT defeated Florida was in 2004 when James Wilhoit nailed a 50-yard field goal with just seconds left on the clock just after missing an extra point that would have tied the game.
Tennessee comes into the game favored on paper. The Vols are averaging 43 points per game while the Gators are averaging 23.5. The Vols have an offense that through two games seems to be one of the most potent in the country. The Gators struggled to beat Bowling Green and had a nice come-from-behind victory at Texas A&M last weekend. Can Florida’s defense contain Tyler Bray, Cordarelle Patterson and Justin Hunter? That is the key to this Saturday’s game.
The last meaningful game in this series was the 2006 game that was played in Neyland Stadium under the lights. Florida edge the Vols 21-20 in that game. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, this was “The Game” in the SEC. Much like this decade’s matchups of Alabama and LSU. Tennessee and Florida were the two best teams in the league, normally ranked in the Top 10 each time they met. Florida won 5 straight in the series until the Vols finally snapped the streak in 1998. The Gators would win two more until the Vols historic upset in The Swamp in 2001. That’s when the series took a backseat to other rivalries in the conference.
Steve Spurrier left the Gators after the 2001 game. No more “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T” comments from Spurrier and no more monkies for Phillip Fulmer to get off his back. The game just hasn’t been the same since that 2001 matchup. Yes, the 2004 game was pretty cool, but both teams were in a rebuilding mode. The 2006 game was probably the best matchup since the ’01 game. Both teams were Top 15 programs and Florida, with the help of Freshmen QB Tim Tebow, would go on to win the National Championship.
This year’s matchup might not be the best the series has seen, but it’s the most hyped in recent years. Both programs have a shot to prove that they are taking the next step in their rebuilding processes. Tennessee and Derek Dooley can prove that they truly do belong in the SEC East race, while Will Muschamp and Florida can prove that their win last week in College Station, TX wasn’t a fluke.
I look for the Vols to end the losing streak to the Gators with a 31-17 victory.
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