Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, the rivalry between the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers was as big a tool in shaping the national landscape in college football as just about any other rivalry. Every matchup from 1990 to 2001 featured at least one of the teams being ranked in the top 10. Each year, the team that emerged victorious on that Saturday in September was seemingly set up for a run at the national title. Florida-Tennessee was as bright a stage as it got in college football.
Along with the dramatic finish last season, with Antonio Callaway racing to endzone for a 63-yard touchdown on 4th and 14, which completed a two touchdown comeback in the 4th quarter and ripped the hearts out of the Tennessee faithful yet again, the matchup has never failed to provide us with memorable moments:
- Danny Wuerffel and the Gators putting up 35 in the first half in ’96, en route to the team’s first national championship that season.
- Florida once again defeating Peyton Manning in ’97, forever leaving Peyton with a blemish in the form of an 0-4 record against Florida on his decorated college career.
- Tennessee tasting sweet revenge with an overtime win in ’98, on their way to the national title.
- Jabar Gaffney’s catch(?) in 2000, where the refs controversially signaled that Gaffney held on to the ball juuuust long enough to be ruled a touchdown reception with just seconds to go, giving Florida the win.
- The following year in 2001, when the game was pushed back to December because of the attacks on 9/11. The two teams came in to the game ranked in the top 5, and both still in national title contention. Tennessee held on to a 34-32 win, and walked out of The Swamp victorious for the first time since 1971.
- 2004, when James Wilhoit drilled a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds to knock off the Gators, after a much debated unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Gator Dallas Baker.
But what happened in the subsequent years after 2004, I don’t think either side saw coming. When that field goal sailed through the uprights on that clear Knoxville night, it signaled the last time the Vols have tasted victory against the Gators.
Eleven years later, eleven straight victories for Florida. From blowouts to one point squeakers like the last two meetings, Florida has just found ways to win year after year. And with that, this once illustrious rivalry has become all but that.
You can’t consider a matchup a rivalry without the two teams trading blows, and in the last decade plus, it has been the Gators taking all the shots. You would be hard pressed to find anybody who would have predicted that one team would take such a stranglehold on the series like Florida has, but here we are.
Don’t get me wrong though, there hasn’t been any love lost between the two schools. The passionate hatred from the teams and fans is very much alive and as strong as it has every been.
This offseason has been evidence to that. Gators cornerback Jalen Tabor has never shied away from expressing his feelings and opinions, and he has riled up the folks in Knoxville multiple times this offseason with his words. It started in April when he noticed ESPN’s Football Power Index listed Tennessee as overwhelming favorites to win the SEC East. Tabor went on a Twitter rant expressing his confidence that Florida will make it twelve wins in a row when September rolls around. Then just this week, while on Sirius XM’s B/R Spotlight Show, the junior cornerback started on the Vols again, stating (Transcribed by 247Sports):
“I mean, I don’t know how many times you have to beat somebody over 10 years plus in a row for them to just really own up. It’s just, I mean, I’ve never been beaten 11 years in a row by one team or one person, so I wouldn’t know how that feels. But it’s talked about a lot.”
A disparity in talent is no longer the issue for Tennessee. Most people feel the Vols had the more talented team coming in to last year’s game, and that opinion has carried over to this season.
The big advantage for Florida is the mental game. Eleven wins in a row have the Gators expecting to win the game no matter the circumstances. On the flip side, eleven losses in a row has Tennessee viewing this matchup as a huge obstacle. Last year’s 4th quarter meltdown from the Vols certainly didn’t help their psyche.
Everything you want from a great rivalry is there between Florida and Tennessee, except the most crucial factor. It’s up to Tennessee to exorcise their demons and begin to win and make this a rivalry again. Whether they can or not has become a task easier said than done.
Heisman Trophy Finalists Include Joe Burrow, Justin fields, Jalen Hurts, Chase Young
The finalists for the Heisman Trophy have been unveiled and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and defensive end Chase Young are headed to New York this weekend for the 85th edition of the award for the most outstanding college football player.
The winner will be announced on Saturday night during a ceremony that kicks off at 8pm est on ESPN.
“In my opinion, he should win it,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said, according to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura. “In my opinion, he’s going to win it. The best thing about Joe is he’s a team player. All he wants to do is win this game. Individual awards are not high on his list. That’s what makes him such a great team player.”
While Burrow may have the most momentum heading into the ceremony, and is the likely number 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Young is the first Ohio State defensive player to finish in the top four in Heisman voting, and Young is the first defensive player from the Big Ten to do so since Michigan’s Charles Woodson won the award all the back in 1997.
Young led the nation with 16.5 sacks and in tackles for loss per game with 1.9.
Additionally, Ohio State is the seventh school to have multiple players invited to the Heisman ceremony in the same year, but the first to have both an offensive player and a defensive player.
Rutgers Brings Back Greg Schiano with Eight-Year, $32 Million Deal
Rutgers is bringing back Greg Schiano as their head coach following a lengthy negotiation process that has led to an eight-year, $32 million deal, according to ESPN.
“Today we open the next great chapter for Rutgers Football,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs said. “Coach Schiano is absolutely the best person to lead our program. He brings a quality of leadership and integrity that will make all of us proud in the years ahead. I couldn’t be more excited for our student-athletes and our fans.
“A lot of hard work lies ahead, but we will all keep chopping together with Coach to achieve success in the Big Ten. We all know what the goal is and we all must do our part. I can’t express enough appreciation to Greg and Christy Schiano, the first family of Rutgers Football. Welcome back!”
Schiano went 68-67 from 2001-2011 as Rutgers head coach.
“Rutgers University and this football program have meant the world to me and my family,” Schiano said in a statement put out by the school. “I arrived here in 2000 with the goal to build a program that would be a source of pride for the state of New Jersey and develop great young men. I look forward to embracing that challenge once again. This is a great opportunity for all of Rutgers to pull together to get us back to where we all know we belong. It will take everyone on this campus and in the State of Rutgers to get this done.”
Schiano left Rutgers in 2012 to become the head coach of the Tamp Bay Buccaneers, in a tenure that lasted just two years.
“I commend Rutgers Athletics Director Pat Hobbs and Coach Schiano for reaching an agreement following very complex negotiations to bring on this new, exciting chapter for Rutgers Athletics,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi said. “We are all thrilled to welcome Coach Schiano. He is the right coach at the right time to build our Big Ten football program into a long-running source of pride for Rutgers.”
Ole Miss Fires Matt Luke
Ole Miss is moving on from head coach Matt Luke, who was fired on Sunday following three seasons at the helm of the Rebels.
“After evaluating the overall trajectory of our football program, we did not see enough momentum on the field and determined a change is necessary in order for our student-athletes to compete at the highest level” Athletics director Keith Carter said in an official statement.
“While improvements were evident in certain aspects of the program, we are judged ultimately by our record, and, unfortunately, we did not meet the standard of success that we expect from our program. We will always be grateful to Coach Luke for his leadership, particularly from a recruiting, academic and overall culture standpoint. At the same time, winning is important, and we know that we can compete for championships at Ole Miss.
“A search is underway to find a new head coach who can build a complete program that attracts top talent, develops them as young men and sustains a winning mentality. We will be looking for the leadership, energy and commitment to excellence necessary to compete in the Southeastern Conference and galvanize our passionate fan base.”
Luke compiled a 15-21 record during his tenure at Ole Miss.
According to the Clarion Ledger’s Nick Suss, the firing of Luke was not well-received by some of the players, with some storming out of the team meeting angry over the decision.
Many are speculating that the Egg Bowl was what set the firing in motion. However, it is worth noting that attendance was becoming an issue in the midst of a losing season, and with a new athletic director in the fold, change was likely coming sooner or later.
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