Once upon a time, when the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers met on the football field — whether it was at Florida Field in Gainesville, or Neyland Stadium in Knoxvill — the game meant more than just bragging rights.
It meant that the winner represented the East Division in the SEC championship game in December. At least that’s the way it was from 1992-2001. There were a fair share of blowouts and nail-biters won by both the Vols and Gators. On two occasions, the wins propelled both teams to National Championships — Florida in 1995 and Tennessee in 1998. Back then, Steve Spurrier walked the Florida sidelines, and Phil Fulmer was in charge at UT.
As the well-worn saying goes: that was then, this is now. The Gators have won eight straight in this series, including a 30-6 blowout at Knoxville. That was Fulmer’s last year, and the Gators, led by coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Tim Tebow, won a national title. In fact, all of Florida’s wins have been by double digits.
This is the third UF-UT tilt for Gators head coach Will Muschamp, and the debut for Volunteers coach Butch Jones. The latter’s team is on the road for the second-straight week, and is hoping for a better outing than last week’s venture to Eugene, Ore., where they lost to the Oregon Ducks, 59-14. That was the biggest loss for the Vols in over five decades.
The Gators are coming off a bye week after their 21-16 loss to in-state foe Miami. Turnovers and missed opportunities inside the red zone were the key factors in Florida’s loss. The Gators offense committed five turnovers, two of which led to Miami touchdowns, and scored only one touchdown on six red-zone trips.
One would have to think that the Florida coaching staff has stressed better protection of the football when the offense has it, and making hay while the sun shines — meaning take advantage of opportunities to score touchdowns when the UF offense is in the red zone.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Matt Jones, along with wide receivers Qunton Dunbar and Solomon Patton, will be looked to redeem themselves after the debacle in Miami, in spite of the fact the Gators amassed 413 yards of total offense two weeks ago. Muschamp, a defensive-minded coach, certainly wants to see strong productivity from the offense, and that they execute better against the Vols.
The game will be televised from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium/Florida Field by CBS as their featured SEC Game of the Week.