Rivalry week has returned to the Swamp as Florida football gets set to host the Tennessee Volunteers for the Southeastern Conference schedule opener for both programs this Saturday.
Once upon a time — a magical time known as the 1990s and early 2000s — Gators vs. Vols was must-watch TV for any fan of college football, much less the SEC. Then in 2005, the tides shifted in Florida’s favor considerably, with the Orange and Blue winning 16 of the next 18 matchups, which included a series-best 11-game winning streak.
However, last season Tennessee earned that second win thanks to an offensive barrage that the Gators simply could not stop. While the final score of 38-33 on the road makes it seem like it was a close game, Florida’s defense was as porous as a sponge forcing the offense to play catchup for most of the game.
College Sports Wire’s Ryan Haley put together his list of SEC games coming up this weekend, with the Florida-Tennessee game set as the headliner. Here is what the Gator graduate had to offer on the marquee matchup.
The No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers travel to Gainesville for a rivalry matchup with the unranked Florida Gators on Saturday. In previous decades, this early-season battle signaled control of the SEC East. From 1992-2009, one of these two teams represented the division in the conference title game 14 out of 18 times.
With two-time defending national champion Georgia in the way, the divisional implications aren’t as strong. The rivalry looked even more uninteresting after Week 1 when Tennessee rolled over Virginia and Florida fell miserably to Utah. But the Gators took care of business against McNeese State in Week 2, and Tennessee found itself in a surprisingly tight game with Austin Peay, trailing early and unable to make it a two-score game until after the half.
With three more top-15 opponents after Tennessee, Florida head coach Billy Napier has a chance to send a statement and stop his second season from getting away from him. The Volunteers look to firmly establish themselves as conference contenders and win for the first time in Gainesville since 2003.
Florida hosts the Volunteers in the Swamp on Saturday, Sept. 16, for the SEC schedule opener between two historic rivals. The opening kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. EDT and the game can be watched on ESPN.