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Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Preview: Waiting for the Return of the Old Days

This used to be one of the SEC's more significant rivalries. It has not been in recent years. And it likely will not be this year

John Sommers II

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It's not that the last five editions of this game have been a total bust. Last year's game was actually hard-fought for the first three quarters or so. The margin of victory has been more than two scores twice, one time being last year and the other being the 30-6 game at the beginning of the end of the Phil Fulmer Era.

But it still feels like this rivalry has lost something in recent years. Tennessee would go on to end the season with a winning record just once. Florida would go on to win a national championship and play in two more BCS bowls over the same time frame. And, of course, Florida won all five games over that time frame, something that's added an air of inevitability to the affair.

I wish I could say there is some indication, any indication, that this season is going to be different. But there isn't. It's not entirely clear to me that Florida is a better team than it was last year, or at least that it will look like a better team than it was last year, but Tennessee is still well behind the SEC East powers in the first year of Butch Jones' tenure.

That doesn't mean there's no potential for something interesting to happen. For one thing, it could be an interesting test of how quickly turnovers regress to the mean -- Florida is minus-two in that department so far, 118th in the FBS, and Tennessee is plus-two, tied for fourth. If the Gators do turn over the ball a few times, we could have a close game; if not, we could be dealing with a blowout.

My guess is that we end up with something in between. Florida is unlikely to continue to turn over the ball at the rate they have so far this season, and Tennessee certainly can't plan on its good luck continuing. Still, things won't get out of hand until later.

Florida 34, Tennessee 21