Chris Low was tasked with breaking down the Gators’ first road game of the season. In his preview, Low dives into the steep history of the Florida-Tennessee rivalry.
Younger fans who dismiss the intensity of the rivalry will quickly point to Florida’s dominance in the series’ recent history. The Gators have won 16 of the last 17 matchups, and the Vols have only beaten Florida four times since the turn of the century. Older fans, however, remember the days of Tennessee spoiling Florida’s national championship aspirations in 2001 and the intensity of the early season matchup being a defacto SEC East division title game.
Recent dominance aside, this matchup looks like a turning point in the rivalry. Tennessee had a lot of hype coming into the season and, so far, they have lived up to it. They are 3-0 and have an OT road win over defending ACC champion Pittsburgh. The Josh Heupel offense is working in its second season under QB Hendon Hooker and the Vols have the advantage of playing this game at home.
Florida also has a high-profile non-conference win to their name. They opened the season with a 39-26 victory over defending Pac-12 champion Utah. Unlike the Vols, however, the Gators have looked a bit lethargic since that victory. They lost their first SEC game of the season against Kentucky and narrowly escaped USF last week.
The game will mark the first road game of the season for the Gators, sparking questions about how young QB Anthony Richardson will look in his first start at Neyland Stadium. Here is what Low had to say about the Orange and Blue’s signal caller:
This will be Florida’s first road game of the season and Richardson’s first career start in a true road game. Napier, while not specifically dissing the environment at Neyland Stadium, nonetheless stoked the fires among Tennessee fans when he downplayed what a road environment would mean for Richardson.
“It’s not like we’re going to Canada and they’re going to change the rules,” Napier said. “It’s going to be the same game. It’s going to be a little louder and playing at a different location.”
Sounds like Napier already has a grip on what the rivalry means to both Florida and Tennessee fans.
The Florida vs. Tennessee game will kick off Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT on CBS Sports. College GameDay, ESPN’s college football pregame show, will be live from Knoxville for the first time since 2016 when they covered a Tennessee come-from-behind victory over the Gators after being down 21-3 at halftime. That game was also Tennessee’s last victory in the rivalry.
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