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Florida vs. Tennessee: 10 Reasons Why the Rivalry Is Relevant Again

Stephen SheehanCorrespondent INovember 11, 2016

Florida vs. Tennessee: 10 Reasons Why the Rivalry Is Relevant Again

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    For seven years, Florida has owned Tennessee. 

    But in the post-Tim Tebow era, the rivalry between the two former powerhouses has lost its luster. 

    Last year's 33-23 victory by the Gators just didn't resonate like the showdowns in the '90s and the earlier part of the decade against the Volunteers. 

    However, with Derek Dooley and Will Muschamp each in need of a signature win in their young careers, Saturday's matchup will spark a renewed rivalry between these SEC foes. 

    With Tennessee boasting a potential first-round pick at quarterback, and the Gators featuring a former top high school quarterback, there will be plenty of scrutiny when it comes to the offenses. 

    Let's take a look at 10 reasons why the Florida-Tennessee rivalry is relevant again. 

Both Teams Are Ranked in AP Poll

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    Rejoice, Vols fans. You've finally made it back to relevancy. 

    For the first time since 2008, Tennessee cracked the AP Top 25, checking in at No. 23. 

    Although Gators fans haven't been treated to a national championship since that same year, UF has managed to stay somewhat relevant in the post-Tebow/Meyer era. 

    However, this week marks the first time in four years that both teams are ranked, making this matchup a little bit juicier. 

    If the Vols defend their home turf, they should leapfrog the Gators, but the Gators could send the Vols right back to irrelevancy with a road victory. 

SEC East Wide Open

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    Four teams—Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee—enter Week 3 with a 2-0 record, and each has a legitimate chance at capturing the SEC East title. 

    The Gators sit atop the division despite scoring just 47 points while the Volunteers check in at fourth after putting up 86 points in just two games. 

    After taking down Texas A&M, the Gators will look to keep their conference record clean. 

    Earning its first conference win of the season against Florida would be a huge boost for Tennessee's chances of winning its first SEC East title since 2007. 

Chance to End the Streak

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    This isn't approaching Chicago Cubs territory, but Tennessee must be pretty desperate to end its winless streak against Florida. 

    Unfortunately for Vols fans, the last time their beloved boys in orange beat the Gators was at home in 2004. 

    Since then, the Gators have thoroughly dominated the matchup, outscoring their rival 213-106. 

    Powered by a high-scoring offense, the Vols have their best shot at avoiding the short end of the stick for the eighth straight time. 

Will Muschamp's Stamp on the Program

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    If there's one thing Will Muschamp doesn't lack, it's confidence. 

    The former SEC safety coaches with the same passion and intensity that made him a fan favorite when he played for Georgia. 

    Muschamp has managed to right the ship after the messy end to the Urban Meyer era, leading the Gators to a 9-6 record, including a Gator Bowl win. 

    UF's rambunctious head coach beat Tennessee last year, but that was with holdover John Brantley and a pair of NFL running backs in Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.  

    This is Muschamp's chance to lead his team to a victory and prove he belongs in the discussion as one of the up-and-coming coaches in the country. 

Teams in Transition

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    During the past decade, Tennessee and Florida produced a ton of NFL stars. 

    From Tim Tebow to Jerod Mayo to Percy Harvin, both star-studded programs were talent pipelines for the NFL. 

    However, the talent level has dropped in the past few seasons as both teams have transitioned to new head coaches. 

    Florida is ushering in a young quarterback in Jeff Driskel while Tennessee's hopes rest on the rocket arm of junior Tyler Bray. 

    UF is also counting on some under-the-radar playmakers and a wealth of juniors on defense. 

    These aren't your Tim Tebow- or Eric Berry-led teams, but the crop of emerging talent makes this rivalry something to look forward to both Saturday and in the future.

Tennessee's Dominant Duo

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    Even with the transfer of Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee boasts a pair of dominant receivers in Justin Hunter and Cordarelle Patterson. 

    Hunter—who tore his ACL last year against Florida—is in the discussion to be one of the first receivers off the board if he enters the 2013 NFL draft. The 6'4", 200-pounder is a terrific vertical threat and has great leaping ability and body control. 

    Lining up opposite Hunter is the 6'3", 205-pound Patterson.

    The No. 1 JUCO recruit in the nation wasted no time proving he belonged in the SEC, reeling in nine catches for 164 yards in two games. 

    Tyler Bray's newest weapons will be a monumental test for Florida's young secondary, and if both players come back for another year, this rivalry will only become more intense. 

Tyler Bray

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    Tyler Bray is no Peyton Manning, but he's the best thing Tennessee's had at quarterback since the days of No. 18. 

    Blessed with a towering 6'6" frame and a cannon for a right arm, Bray's name constantly comes up when discussing the top quarterbacks in the 2013 draft. 

    The junior battled injuries last year, finishing with a 17:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

    Now that he's healthy, he's put up fantastic numbers through the team's first two games, throwing for 643 yards and six touchdowns. 

    Florida has a promising defense, but Tennessee will have a clear edge at quarterback this weekend. 

Gators Breaking in New QB

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    When John Brantley took over for Tim Tebow, the rivalry immediate lost its luster. 

    I'm not hating on the guy, but he just didn't have the same confidence, spark or talent as the Gators' savior. 

    With Brantley gone, the Gators are officially opening the door for a new era at quarterback as sophomore Jeff Driskel—the top high school quarterback in 2010—takes over as the starter. 

    Driskel possesses great athleticism and size for the position, but has work to do as a passer. 

    His presence finally gives the team hope at quarterback, and Gators fans should be excited to see what the 6'4" signal-caller does against Tennessee for years to come. 

Derek Dooley Looking for Signature Win

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    Zero wins, 10 losses. 

    That's Derek Dooley's record at Tennessee against ranked opponents. 

    Now in his third year at the helm, Dooley's 2010 squad nearly beat then-No. 12 LSU, but it's been a rather painful experience since that heartbreaker. 

    The man needs a signature win, and Saturday's matchup is his best shot at getting the monkey off his back. 

    Maybe it's the obscene orange pants, but something just hasn't gone right for the young head coach when it comes to big games. 

    With national rankings and division implications at stake, Dooley desperately needs to beat Florida in this renewed rivalry. 

Retribution for 2011

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    With Justin Hunter back in the mix, Tennessee is out for redemption. 

    Last time these two teams faced off, the Vols' top receiver tore up his knee, leaving a huge void on offense. 

    Tyler Bray ended up passing for 288 yards, but threw two picks in the Vols' 33-23 loss at the Swamp. 

    Between Bray, Hunter and Patterson, the Vols are an offensive juggernaut that should test Florida's inconsistent secondary. 

    Armed with home-field advantage and a healthy Hunter, you can bet Tennessee won't be short on motivation on Saturday. 

    If there's any chance of making this more than a one-sided rivalry, Bray and Co. will have to lead the Vols to victory. 

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