Florida Gators-Tennessee Volunteers: The Renewal of a Great SEC East Rivalry
The SEC is home to some of the best rivalries in college football. The Iron Bowl. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The Egg Bowl. There are tons of them.
Tennessee-Florida is an unusual SEC rivalry. Florida and Tennessee have competed against each other in college football since 1910 and were both founding members of the Southeastern Conference.
It wasn’t until 1992, when the SEC went to a divisional alignment, that the rivalry between the Gators and Volunteers began to heat up. The rivalry has become more competitive since the teams began facing each other more regularly. Both squads benefitted from NFL-caliber talent throughout the 90s and 2000s, as both teams competed for SEC championships and national titles.
The rivalry has stalled a bit because it’s been very one-sided in the name of the Florida Gators. Since 2005, the Volunteers have only won one match-up between the teams when they played at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville in 2016.
Going into the game this week, the buzz is high on the Volunteers, and they’re a popular pick to break that streak this Saturday.
Let’s take a little bit closer look at the teams to see what we should look for on Saturday.
Tennessee Side of the Ball
The Volunteers are opening SEC East play with an undefeated record. They had a mildly challenging non-conference schedule, including the last-minute win on the road against a ranked Pittsburgh Panthers team.
In their first 3 games, the offense has averaged 52 points a game, led by running back Jaylen Wright, who is averaging 5.3 yards per rushing attempt, and transfer portal quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker has been excellent so far this season, throwing for 844 yards and 6 TDs so far into the season.
Enthusiasm is high in Volunteer country, but the Gators will be the first true test of the season. Vols fans will hope that their squad can limit their penalties (24 through 3 games) and hope that special teams won’t be too much of an Achilles heel for them.
Florida Side of the Ball
Florida comes into this rivalry game with an in-conference loss against upstart Kentucky. Most of this loss could be attributed to the turnover-prone play of Anthony Richardson, who threw 2 interceptions in the loss against Kentucky.
Richardson was also a big part of the win that got the Gators ranked v #7 Utah earlier in the season. In that game, he ran for 3 scores and played mistake-free football versus the Utes.
Mistake-free football is what the Gators staff will ask of Richardson again here versus Tennessee. The Vols’ defense looked massive in their opening games. It will be interesting to see how they hold up against a stacked SEC roster.
Florida’s game plan for Saturday will be limiting offensive mistakes and getting off the field on defense. The defense has been a struggle for the Gators this year – they’re having a hard time getting off the field on 3rd down, and Florida gave up 286 yards on the ground to USF in a close win.
Like many SEC games, this one will come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes. A new chapter in this storied rivalry comes alive this weekend!