Tennessee Football: The Gator is finally off their back

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Joshua Dobbs /

There are 38 days till college football season, and today we’re going to talk about one of the best rivalries in the SEC.

There has been a cloud over the Tennessee football program ever since they chose to fire head coach Phil Fulmer back in 2008. But Butch Jones has been the ray of light that this program, and this conference needed.

Since 2008 (nine seasons) Tennessee has had a winning record four times, and three of those are Jones. The Volunteers had lost at least six games in every season since 2008, until the back-to-back 9-4 seasons in 2015 and 2016.

You’d have to go back a little further to find the last time the beat the Florida Gators. That was 2004 under Fulmer. But that all changed last season, and Jones and the Vols officially got that Gator off of their back. And that leads us to no. 38 on the Southbound and Down College Football Countdown.

Tennessee scored 38 consecutive points in their 38-28 win over Florida in 2016.

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Even though 2016 was the finally viewed as the year Tennessee would knock off Florida, last year’s game appeared to be business-as-usual for this rivalry.

Tennessee Volunteers Football
Tennessee Volunteers Football /

Tennessee Volunteers Football

On Tennessee’s first five drives of the game, they fumbled, were turned over on downs, punted twice, and threw an interception. On those drives they totaled 118 yards on 33 plays. Meanwhile, the Gators were up 21-0. Tennessee was able to put one scoring drive together to make it 21-3 at half time.

It appeared to be more of the same, when Joshua Dobbs was intercepted on the opening drive of the second half, but the Vols righted the ship, and it proved to be a tale of two halves.

  • 7 First Half Drives (3 PTS): 43 plays, 192 yards (4.5 yards/play)
  • First 7 Second Half Drives (35 PTS): 30 plays, 314 yards (10.5 yards/play)

Tennessee scored five touchdowns on their next six drives to take a commanding 38-21 lead on the Gators, giving them their first win over Florida in 12 tries.

While they still failed to win the SEC East, beating Florida was a milestone win for Jones and the Tennessee football program. And something tells me this rivalry is going to be a little less one-sided in the years to come.