It used to be one of the best rivalries in College Football, but since the fall of the Tennessee Volunteers, the Florida Gators have had their way in this one, winning the last 8 meeting between the two teams.
For Butch Jones, the first-year Tennessee head coach, it’s a sign that his players need to step it up. As if getting beaten by Oregon 59-14, the Vols’ worst varsity defeat since 1910, wasn’t enough.
But the arrival of Jones was supposed to be a sign that things are changing. The program has finished with a sub. 500 record for the last three seasons, including two consecutive 5-7 years to end Derek Dooley’s short reign in Knoxville. The Vols have never had three seasons in a row with a losing record.
So Tennessee won their first two games against Austin Ray and Western Kentucky, but facing an elite program showed just how far they are from where they want to be. It also opened up the quarterback competition once again, which is never a sign of a program heading towards a good year: Justin Worley started the three games, but his 6.53 yards per attempt are the fewest in the SEC and he can’t run.
Freshman Nathan Peterman seems to be in the best sport to capture the starting position, but Jones is also considering giving Riley Ferguson or Joshua Dobbs, both Freshmen who haven’t taken a single snap so far this season.
Luckily for them, Florida ain’t doing too great either. The Gators, who have won the last six meetings between the two teams by double digit scorelines, are 1-1, unranked, following a loss to Miami in week 1. Their offense is struggling finishing off drives, ranked 57th in the nation in total offense, 97th in passing and only 94th in the nation when it comes to converting third downs. Jeff Driskel doesn’t seem to be like the kind of guy with the talent to bring back Florida to the top of the SEC.
So Tennessee have a shot, right? The Florida defense is still very strong, ranked 17th in the nation. Tennessee, on the other side, have lost their last 17 games against ranked opponents and are 1-23 versus top 25 teams since 2008. Florida might not be as scary as before, but the Vols, who haven’t won in Gainsville since 2003, don’t look good enough to beat even them.