College football Throwback Thursday: Top Florida-Tennessee rivalry moments
For 11 years in a row, Florida has come out on top of the annual Florida-Tennessee matchup. And on Saturday, for the first time since 2012, the two teams meet as ranked, undefeated teams. While this game looks to be an interesting matchup based on just the teams’ performances so far this year, the meeting of Florida and Tennessee dates back to 1916.
Some may argue this isn’t a ‘real’ rivalry, but with years of fierce season-changing competition, it’s difficult to see how the Florida-Tennessee is not arguably one of the most intense rivalries in college football history.
So, this week, we throwback to the top moments in the Florida-Tennessee rivalry.
1916 | The First Game
Both teams traveled to Tampa, Fla. to face off in their firstmatchup. The Vols defeated the Gators 24-0 and they continued their winning streak for more than 30 years until in 1954 when Florida finally pulled out a 14-0 win over Tennessee.
1928 | The Undefeated Matchup
While this game was part of Tennessee’s early reign on the series, this was the first time the two teams stepped onto the field undefeated. Florida led the nation in scoring, with 336 points according to Florida Athletics, and had one of the fastest running backs in the nation. The Gators traveled to Knoxville but were defeated 13-12. However, according to GatorSports columnist Pat Dooley, rumors of Tennessee watering down its field to slow Florida’s offense, causing this matchup to become more than just another stop on Florida’s schedule.
1969 | The Gator Bowl
This was the first of many years where the Gators’ and the Vols’ players and coaches intersected and changed sides. Doug Dickey served as Tennessee’s head coach from 1964 to 1969, and Tennessee Athletics credits him with reestablishing the Vols’ elite football program. However, Dickey attended Florida and played for the Gators.
During this game, Vols fans suspected that Dickey would be coaching for his alma mater in the next season, according to Dooley. Additionally, this game marked the rare occurrence that two teams from the same conference faced each other in a bowl game.
The Gators fought to bring home a 14-13 win, and Dickey announced three days after the game that he would return to Florida to coach. According to Florida Athletics, Tennessee fans deemed Dickey a “traitor.” However, after a nine year coaching stint with the Gators, he returned to Tennessee in 1985 to serve as the Vols’ athletic director, according to Tennessee Athletics.
The Vols were able to exact some revenge the follow year, defeating their former coach 38-7 in 1970.
1995 | The Heisman Showdown
With Tennessee ranked No. 8 and Florida No. 4, this matchup looked to be one of the most interesting games of the season, especially with potential Heisman candidates, Payton Manning and Danny Wuerffel, on the rosters.
In the first half of the game, Manning threw for 216 yards and led the Vols to a 16-point lead, entering half time looking like it was going to be Tennessee’s win. However, the Vols quickly lost their lead. Wuerffel ripped apart the Vols’ defense. The Gators posted 41 consecutive points and won 62-37.
Also, Florida Athletics reported before the game, Manning was set to be on the front cover of Sports Illustrated, but at the end of the game, Wuerffel took the cover, which didn’t make Tennessee fans happy.
1997 | Comment from Spurrier
According to Florida Athletics, during the offseason, while basking in the glow of three straight SEC titles and Florida’s first national championship title as well as three consecutive victories over the Vols, Spurrier told media members, “You can’t spell Citrus Bowl without a ‘U’ and a ‘T.’” He also mocked Manning for returning to Tennessee for a fourth year. However, after all his comments about the Citrus Bowl, Florida, ironically, ended up in the Citrus Bowl just months later. The Gators did, however, defeat Tennessee that year.
2001 | The Late-Season Decider
This rivalry matchup between the Gators and Volunteers traditionally fell early in the season, much like this year. However, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the game was moved to the end of the season, making the big game even bigger.
Because of the positioning in the season, many believed that the outcome of this game would determine the favorite for the SEC title and who would move on to face Miami in the Rose Bowl. Sports Illustrated reported that few looked at the two teams as equals going into the game, favoring Florida to win by a landslide.
However according to Dooley, the Vols fought and were victorious with a socre of 34-32 after the Gators failed on a two-point conversion. Tennessee went on to snag the SEC title. Also, this remained Spurrier’s last game for Florida vs. Tennessee as he resigned early in 2002.
2007 | Large Margins
According to Winsipedia, in part of the current 11-win streak Florida has going for them, this 2007 matchup left Florida with its largest margin of victory over Tennessee. While Tennessee does hold the series’ record for the largest margin over the other with a 42-point difference, this 39-point lead remains one of Florida’s best wins over Tennessee in the rivalry history.
2013 | Another Familiar Face
In 2013 according to Tennessee Athletics, two members of Tennessee’s coaching staff, Robert Gillespie and Zach Azzanni, held ties to Florida’s football program. Gillespie played for Florida as a running back from 1998 to 2001, and Azzanni served as Florida’s passing coordinator during the 2010 season. The two both told Tennessee Athletics that it is a great rivalry.
However, Florida's head coach Will Muschamp led the Gators to defeat the Vols 31-17.
Will Saturday’s game have a moment to join this list? The game could end Florida’s 11-game winning streak, or it could tally a twelfth win for the Gators. Either way, this weekends’ matchup between the No. 14 and No. 19 teams will be one of the interesting SEC games, and it won’t be one to miss.