Florida at Tennessee
9.22.18 / 7:00 PM
As far as college rivalries go, the Gators and the Volunteers are a relatively new one. What they lack in longevity, they have made up for in bitterness. This rivalry has packed a century’s worth of bad blood into 47 meetings and often carried championship implications.
From 1990-2007 both schools were ranked in the top 25 every time they clashed. During that eighteen year span, the two were top 10 for eleven of them. At one time, the winner of this game was almost guaranteed a trip to Atlanta as the SEC’s Eastern Divison champions. This year, however, marks the third time in the last five that neither team is ranked.
This annual feud has been the source of euphoric joy and catastrophic heartbreak. There have been blowouts and nail-biters that have probably shaved years off of our lifespans. But for the last thirteen years, this once fierce rivalry has been very one sided.
After Tennessee won the first ten meetings, Florida has roared back and taken a 27-20 lead in the series, winning twelve of the last thirteen. While some of the luster has diminished for the national audience, this game still stirs up plenty of emotion for the schools and their fans. Yes, these two programs still love to hate each other.
At a glance:
2018 record: 2-1
Head coach: Jeremy Pruitt
One could make a case that this year’s edition of the third Saturday in September, is the most meaningful in the past decade. Both teams are coming off of disappointing 4 win seasons and for the first time since 1970, there are new head coaches on both sidelines.
The winner of this game will be making a statement. A win will signify that one program is taking a giant step forward in returning to prominance. A victory on Saturday is a strong indication that the New culture is beginning to take hold.
Jeremy Pruitt enters Saturday as a first time head coach and a newcomer to this rivalry. Dan Mullen has experience in both departments and was crucial to Florida’s dominance over Tennessee in the mid to late 2000’s. From a talent and development standpoint, Florida has a slight edge but how will they react to Neyland Stadium at night?
The strength of this Volunteers team seems to be their runningbacks. Lead by sophomore Tim Jordan, the group has racked up 670 yards and 8 touchdowns through three games. The bulk of both of those numbers came in a pair of blowout wins over much weaker opponents in the last two weeks.
QB Jarrett Guarantano has been efficient, completing 72.2% of his passes but hasn’t been asked to do much through the air. In three showings, Guarantano has just 494 yards with a pair of touchdowns. None the less, he has managed the game for Tennessee.
Florida likely won’t face an incredibly interesting offense in Tennessee. As bland as it has looked at times this year, it has been executed properly. This is a team that hasn’t made many errors so far and it will be up to the Gators to force them into mistakes.
If Florida’s front seven can put together a performance like they had last week, it will be a long night on Rocky Top for the Volunteers.
The Vols defensive front is a weak link and could be vulnerable to Florida’s rushing attack. The mobility of Feleipe Franks could also be troublesome for the fledgling unit. Should the Gators get the running game going early, we might see some fireworks later on through the air as well.
This is a must win game for both teams and it is one that will be hard fought and physical. Mullen will have to have his team mentally prepared and ready to be the tougher team. Starting right now, “relentless effort” can no longer be a catch phrase. It must be the culture!
Currently, the Gators are 5 point favorites in their traveling debut. They will receive some help with the return of LB David Reese, and DB C.J. McWilliams, and possibly DB Shawn Davis. The latter two will be much welcomed depth to a depleted secondary.