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Florida 37, Tennessee 20: The Gators are Back, and Tennessee Isn't

Florida is on top of the SEC East once again.
Florida is on top of the SEC East once again.

For a time, the Florida-Tennessee game was shaping up to be one of the most entertaining games of the SEC season so far. Both the Gators and the Volunteers held the lead at least once, and the margin was as small as a single point early in the third quarter.

Then, Tennessee missed an extra point while up 20-13, and the floodgates seemed to open. Florida would score a couple of drives later to tie things up and then pour on 17 more points in the next 11:31 of game play, turning what had been a hard-fought game with a slight Tennessee edge into a Florida laugher. The Gators gained 555 yards of total offense to Tennessee's 340.

Florida is now 2-0 in the SEC and will end the night atop the SEC East. (Georgia and South Carolina both had varying degrees of trouble with their midmajor cupcakes before pulling away; both are also just 1-0 in the conference.) It might be a bit early to call the Gators front-runners just yet, but they have certainly sent a clear signal that the onetime rulers of the division are no longer content to be also-rans.

For Vols fans, you could almost hear the rumbling beginnings of a reassessment of Derek Dooley. This was supposed to be the game where Tennessee reasserted itself as a factor in the SEC East, with Gameday on hand to cover it all, not a game that served as a launching pad for Florida's 2012 campaign. If Dooley had finally reclaimed some good will with the first two games of the season, this had to bring back a lot of the bile for the Knoxville faithful.

Before this game, they looked at Derek Dooley as the man who could finally make them relevant again. That seemed to crumble during the second half. The only question is whether it will bring the Dooley regime down with it.