No. 18 Gators vs. No. 23 Vols brings back memories

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Steve Spurrier isn't directing pregame barbs at Phillip Fulmer. Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning aren't throwing any passes.

Yet there's an unmistakable sense of 1990s nostalgia in the air now that national relevance has returned to the Florida-Tennessee rivalry. When No. 23 Tennessee opens Southeastern Conference competition Saturday against No. 18 Florida, it will mark the first time since 2007 that both are ranked at the time of their annual confrontation.

"Tennessee is always going to feel like Tennessee because that's just our rival, our rival team that we love to play," Florida linebacker Lerentee McCray said. "But it's kind of an old-school feel, getting back to it."

When Spurrier coached Florida and Fulmer led Tennessee, this game ranked among the nation's biggest September showdowns. Either Florida or Tennessee represented the Eastern Division in the SEC championship game every year from 1992-2001.

Lately, the rivalry hasn't been nearly as relevant.

Nor has it been much of a rivalry.

Tennessee has posted two consecutive losing seasons. After winning national titles in 2006 and 2008, Florida posted a combined record of 15-11 in 2010 and 2011. Even during its recent struggles, Florida has continued its seven-game winning streak in this series.

Now both teams have cause for optimism.

Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) came from behind to win 20-17 at Texas A&M last week. Tennessee (2-0, 0-0) has gained over 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 2000, giving the Vols reason to believe they can finally beat Florida.

"We walk around campus and people just have that look, that Tennessee's back," Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore said.

History suggests Tennessee won't end the Gators' streak unless it does a better job of running the ball.

Tennessee has averaged 1.8 yards per carry over its last seven games with Florida. The Vols haven't outrushed Florida since 2004, the last time they defeated the Gators.

"It's a real focus — the running game and handling the line of scrimmage in general," Tennessee center James Stone said. "That's their strength, and we have to make it our strength."

Florida's offense features Mike Gillislee, who leads the SEC with 231 yards rushing. Tennessee has a quick-strike attack with Tyler Bray throwing to SEC receptions leader Justin Hunter and all-purpose yardage leader Cordarrelle Patterson. Hunter has made a successful return after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Tennessee's 33-23 loss to Florida last September.

The Vols have four scoring drives this season that took 34 or fewer seconds. Florida leads the SEC in time of possession.

Yet both defenses also have reason for hope.

Bray has completed 73.8 percent of his passes for 643 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions, but he entered last year's Florida game with similar statistics. He ended up throwing two interceptions as well as three touchdown passes against the Gators. Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson referred to Bray as a "daredevil" this week while noting his tendency to force passes.

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel was sacked eight times last week. That number has the attention of both teams.

"We definitely noticed (how) Texas A&M pass rushed in the game and how it affected Jeff," Tennessee outside linebacker Jacques Smith said. "They kind of exposed themselves a little bit."

Driskel knows he must do a better job of helping his blockers.

"I've got to get rid of the ball earlier and not lock it onto my first read," Driskel said. "Like I said, live another day if nothing is open and someone is coming at me, and throw the ball away."

Florida must improve its pass protection, but the Gators still have plenty of confidence after winning on the road last week. Tennessee also is feeling good about itself after two double-digit victories. Their fast starts have brought back memories of an era when these programs competed for high stakes every season.

The Vols and Gators were "two of the top five teams in the country in the '90's," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Basically, the third Saturday in September, whoever won that game certainly had a leg up on winning the East."

It's not quite as clear-cut this year.

SEC East rivals Georgia and South Carolina remain ahead of both teams in the rankings. But the winner of Saturday's game once again should consider itself a real contender for the division title.

___

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Comments » 20

gluesniffer writes:

there does seem to be a different feeling in the air this year.

torchbearer writes:

Bottom line...whoever loses this game, their coach is gone at the end of the year. UT should win, but UF game always has crazy stuff happening. With Gameday there and a host of recruits, this single game will determine the rest of Dooley's career. Win and or win big, I would say UT is looking like it can compete for the East. Lose and it will be another 3 yrs before we are playing at a high level.

My prediction is UT 31 UF 20

BrassMonkey writes:

Sorry to say but I do not like Dooley's chances in SEC competition. Just keeping it real and basing it off of his previous results. There are going to be alot of disappointed fans on Saturday night including me. The worst part is that everyone has already guaranteed the win for us. It will not be that easy for us with a coach that does not belong at this level.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to torchbearer:

Bottom line...whoever loses this game, their coach is gone at the end of the year. UT should win, but UF game always has crazy stuff happening. With Gameday there and a host of recruits, this single game will determine the rest of Dooley's career. Win and or win big, I would say UT is looking like it can compete for the East. Lose and it will be another 3 yrs before we are playing at a high level.

My prediction is UT 31 UF 20

I don't think either Coach is going anywhere at the end of this year. Dooley is showing a lot of progress in team development and a very good coaching staff. It would be very foolish to dump him unless he can't show game-day progress. Muskrat is just starting his tour. And Wise deserted him early, so he too is trying to rebuild a staff. Looks to me like a CSS VS CPF arrangement again only in reverse.

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Sorry to say but I do not like Dooley's chances in SEC competition. Just keeping it real and basing it off of his previous results. There are going to be alot of disappointed fans on Saturday night including me. The worst part is that everyone has already guaranteed the win for us. It will not be that easy for us with a coach that does not belong at this level.

"...his previous results"? You mean the past 2 years when he had an empty or nearly bench and what now appear to have been inferior assistant caoches to the present group? Add in a former UT star RB who is the 1st RB coach under CDD.

Let's see what he can do with the field a little closer to being level regarding numbers and quality of players and some new blood coaches.

If we come up short Saturday night I will also be very disappointed, but this one is going to be far more of an even contest regarding the team we are putting on the field than what we brought to the previous games.

Cheer 'em on or hide and watch, but we may be about to open up a can...

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to torchbearer:

Bottom line...whoever loses this game, their coach is gone at the end of the year. UT should win, but UF game always has crazy stuff happening. With Gameday there and a host of recruits, this single game will determine the rest of Dooley's career. Win and or win big, I would say UT is looking like it can compete for the East. Lose and it will be another 3 yrs before we are playing at a high level.

My prediction is UT 31 UF 20

Yada Yada Yada!! ... Kids in the backseat cryin "Are We There Yet?" This is the very first SEC game Coach Derrick Dooley has had a glimmer of a chance to show the Vol Nation what kind of coach he is when the Vols are just starting to play Dooley Ball, not whatever he can cobble together with the pieces he has. And here come the "gone if'n he don't win it" crybabies who think they deserve wins every game so they can go home and feel good about themselves. News Flash: It Ain't About You or What You Want, little boy. It's ALL about the young atheletes who choose to come to play football for the University of Tennessee Volunteer Football Team. They deserve a program that provides consistency by working out an assistant coaching staff that has bought in to the program Coach Derrick Dooley is building. And what a program! Fast gunslinging passing game, fast attack 3-4 defense, maybe JUST NOW getting a kicker who won't let the pressure get to him after the No.1 high school kicker in the nation can't make it right now. This is the first opportunity REASONABLE THINKING FANS have had to see Dooley Ball against an SEC opponent. The very first. And you say, "Gone if he don't win it." BS .. get a roll of TP an antiseptic and clean up yer keyboard. Dooley's got this complete season to get 7 or 8 wins. Just like he did before the first whistle at NC State. And that's enough. It is all we expected before this well coached team came out of the blocks and happily supprised us, just like they did last year. But last year was not Dooley Ball. This year is. Win or lose this game, he'll be back next year, and you'll be glad. As for Muschamp, who knows what he'll finally be able to do with all those blue chip atheletes he has to work with. He's one year behind Dooley in starting to build a new program. But what he got after the Urban Legend left was about a thousand times more than Dooley has had to build with. Win or lose, I back the Volunteer athletes and their coaching staff and predict a close, hard fought, smash mouth, slobber knockin', win it in the trenches ball game. Winning the trenches lets Air Orange fly all over the field, dropping bombs on the lizzards on the ground, 'wunnerin' wa hapend'!
You'll be wantin' sum Doolaide to quench yer thirst from yellin' so loud, an so long.

Go Vols! Go Dooley! Go SEC!
Smokey Rules!

Orangepuddinskin writes:

I am so proud of this board. It took a full 19 minutes before someone took the Monkeys bait. Lol.

AtopTheHill06 writes:

And the kick this time is..... No Siree, No Siree, No Siree! Tomorrow we get back to Tennessee Football.

VolGrad writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Sorry to say but I do not like Dooley's chances in SEC competition. Just keeping it real and basing it off of his previous results. There are going to be alot of disappointed fans on Saturday night including me. The worst part is that everyone has already guaranteed the win for us. It will not be that easy for us with a coach that does not belong at this level.

Your opinion ranks just below CBS' Dennis Dodd's to me. At least he is expecting Tennessee to win.

You say you'll be disappointed Saturday while implying Tennessee will lose. Well then, I am pretty sure you'll be disappointed because the Vols will beat the Gators tomorrow night.

Go Vols! Grill the Gators!!!
38-20

CCLC writes:

"We walk around campus and people just have that look, that Tennessee's back," Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore said.
That sounds like a confident player.

VolinCalif writes:

in response to HopeisNotaCourseofAction:

"...his previous results"? You mean the past 2 years when he had an empty or nearly bench and what now appear to have been inferior assistant caoches to the present group? Add in a former UT star RB who is the 1st RB coach under CDD.

Let's see what he can do with the field a little closer to being level regarding numbers and quality of players and some new blood coaches.

If we come up short Saturday night I will also be very disappointed, but this one is going to be far more of an even contest regarding the team we are putting on the field than what we brought to the previous games.

Cheer 'em on or hide and watch, but we may be about to open up a can...

Like your post Hope. I got smacked for saying the ex-coaches were not SEC coaches. Many believed Wilcox was the next coming. I don't but that doesn't mean he isn't good. Dooley will be at Tenn for a long time. As you know Dooley only had a couple of weeks to save recruits and get a Staff. Few could have done as well.
Vols 41 Fl 17

PUL4VOLS writes:

in response to torchbearer:

Bottom line...whoever loses this game, their coach is gone at the end of the year. UT should win, but UF game always has crazy stuff happening. With Gameday there and a host of recruits, this single game will determine the rest of Dooley's career. Win and or win big, I would say UT is looking like it can compete for the East. Lose and it will be another 3 yrs before we are playing at a high level.

My prediction is UT 31 UF 20

Do not fully agree; whomever loses is definitely on the hottest seat. But even if won and the rest of the season is not taken care of...hot seat. It is more crucial for the Vols to win and they are expected to do so. But to lose it and still get 8 wins, including one or two against those "too tough" SEC foes, would make a loss now at least bearable. All the marbles are on this one only for this year. What takes place in the remaining weeks will determine what happens with coaches. UT needs to win and can do it. I am believing they will do it. But please, no firing coaches over one game. I don't buy that.

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

in response to BrassMonkey:

Sorry to say but I do not like Dooley's chances in SEC competition. Just keeping it real and basing it off of his previous results. There are going to be alot of disappointed fans on Saturday night including me. The worst part is that everyone has already guaranteed the win for us. It will not be that easy for us with a coach that does not belong at this level.

I am not sorry to say this....nobody gives a flying rat's rear end about what you think about Dooley, the Vols, Neyland Stadium, The University of Tennessee, etc. Get it? Nobody. You are a Summer's Eve in my book and have proven that many times. Take a ******* hike! Any questions?

HopeisNotaCourseofAction writes:

in response to VolinCalif:

Like your post Hope. I got smacked for saying the ex-coaches were not SEC coaches. Many believed Wilcox was the next coming. I don't but that doesn't mean he isn't good. Dooley will be at Tenn for a long time. As you know Dooley only had a couple of weeks to save recruits and get a Staff. Few could have done as well.
Vols 41 Fl 17

Wilcox was obviously the "next going", and good riddance. He left the SEC to probably to escape the tough schedule, and lost 41-3 last week to lsu - now that's funny I don't care who you are.

Believe we got an upgrade in that exchange.

CantStandCantStandSaban writes:

The last time I felt this good about the TN/FL game, we fumbled the game away in the rain and Ron Zook, Rex Grossman and Company looked like world beaters.

Every time I hear an ESPN talking head pick Tennessee to win the game, my stomach turns just a little bit.

TheCopper writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Muschump will be gone from Florida long before Dooley is gone from UT. But hey, keep up the comedy routine. You are about on a fourth grade level now.

seaplane#216536 writes:

We have not had good luck with quarterbacks that can run. We need to really focus on not letting him get loose. Please don't let this Fla Vol down this year. Don't quit and send the Gators back to the Swamp wishin' they hadn't come to Knoxville.

VolGrad writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We have revenues of which you know not.

This is Big Orange Country! Go Vols!!!

VolinCalif writes:

in response to HopeisNotaCourseofAction:

Wilcox was obviously the "next going", and good riddance. He left the SEC to probably to escape the tough schedule, and lost 41-3 last week to lsu - now that's funny I don't care who you are.

Believe we got an upgrade in that exchange.

Yep. You bet we did. It will show tomorrow night.
Vols 41 Fl 17

West10VolNHouston writes:

Ah, perfect time for my first post of the 2012 season, Florida eve!!! Got a little more revved up for it as I saw a few Gators fans at the Dolphins/Texans game here this past Sunday!! Have liked a lot of what I have seen thus far this season! Patterson has definitely replaced Da'Rick (although lining up with all three at the same time would have been ideal)and we look to be a bit more physical defensively. The concern is the run game still! Tomorrow will tell us just how much progress has been made in the area. We must minimize turnovers, keep Tyler's jersey as clean as possible and he must remain patient because I am sure Muschamp is emphasizing eliminating the deep ball! Will be nerve racking if this is close with our kicking situation though. I certainly respect what I saw out of Florida last week though. That was an "extremely hostile" environment that they walked into last week and overcame some early adversity to win. It did come at a cost though. That was a very physical game. So while this isn't a vintage Spurrier or Meyer crew coming to Neyland, they are competitors and will be confident that they can win on the road. All that being said I will call for the upset...Final score Tennessee 28 Florida 20.....don't leave those seats saturday and end up in jail somewhere if you are attending!!! GBO!!!

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