AP Top 25 College Football
As soon as Tennessee's game with Georgia State game ended, The Streak came to mind.
Why wouldn't it?
The Tennessee-Florida rivalry, which will resume Saturday at Neyland Stadium, has become more of a streak than a series — a seven-game succession of Florida chomps and UT blunders.
Florida was streaking in the 1990s, too, when it beat the Vols five consecutive times (1993-97). But the Gators were dominating the SEC in those days. They're an also-ran in the East now.
Florida has lost 11 games the previous two seasons. It has lost to Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia in succession. It has lost back-to-back games to South Carolina. It has lost to Mississippi State. It has almost lost to Vanderbilt.
It still hasn't lost to the Vols since 2004.
Depending on your side of The Streak, different names come to mind. Florida fans remember Tim Tebow converting on fourth-and-short or Brandon James going long. They remember Dustin Doe scooping up a fumble and running for a touchdown or Tony Joiner breaking up an ill-advised fourth-down pass from a freshman punter. They remember Janoris Jenkins intercepting in a crowd and Chris Rainey running free in the secondary.
Florida fans remember who scored. UT fans remember who fumbled.
Doe couldn't have altered the course of Florida's 59-20 victory in 2007 if UT running back Arian Foster hadn't fumbled the ball his way when the Vols were only eight points down in the third quarter.
Britton Colquitt had to choose a pass over a punt before Joiner could become a fourth-down hero in 2005. And some coach had to sign off on kicking or punting the ball in James' direction (pick any season between 2006 and 2009).
Obscured in those highlights and low-lights is my signature play of The Streak. It occurred in the last minute of the first half in 2008.
The Gators already had a 20-0 lead as UT lined up a yard away from their goal line. A third-down pass was incomplete. A fourth-down pass was intercepted by Jenkins.
Did I mention that the Vols had two downs to make 1 yard? You think someone with play-calling clout might have lobbied for at least one run?
Then again, maybe not. Two things the Vols haven't done in The Streak: run the ball, or hold onto it as well as the Gators.
The rushing statistics are staggering in The Streak. The Gators rushed for 255 yards in the 2007 game. That's only 80 yards fewer than the Vols have totaled rushing in the seven lost games. UT had -9 yards rushing against the Gators last season. They had -11 yards in 2006. Only once during what qualifies as the Dark Ages of the series have they rushed for more than 100 yards (117 in 2009).
Nor have the Gators had more turnovers than the Vols in any of the seven games. Florida has thrown just three interceptions in The Streak. UT might have thrown five last season if the Gators hadn't dropped a handful of opportunities.
The Streak began with a drop.
The Vols were going for a third consecutive victory in the series in 2005 and looked capable of pulling it off at halftime. Then, early in the third quarter of a 7-7 game, Eric Wilbur punted the ball to UT's Jonathan Hefney. He fumbled the ball back to the Gators, who took the lead on a field goal moments later en route to a 16-7 victory.
The series hasn't been the same since.