We’ve all been there before, right?
Think back and insert the “big day” that you spent months preparing and planning for.
Classic examples include: New Year’s Eve, your 21st birthday, most surprise parties, St. Pattie’s Day, and events like that.
You have everything mapped out and planned to the minute, you can visualize what it will be like and how much fun it will be and once the day comes, the following scenario ensues:
Your night is going as planned. The girl/guy you wanted to spend quality time with is there, having fun and paying attention to you and you're buzzing on a very reasonable scale.
All of a sudden, the wheels come off and someone buys you a shot, you argue with your buddies over something silly, the special girl/guy is all of a sudden gone cold, and someone inspires you toward some kind of “shot for shot” type drinking contest.
Before you know it, the evening is over. Your special girl/guy is nowhere to be found so you settle for going home with the “loose change” that you can find at your establishment. They’re not the caliber of your No. 1 seed that has disappeared, but they’re a solid No. 5 type.
The rest of the night is fine and you wake up the next morning and offer your new friend a cup of coffee or orange juice and a banana as you kindly, but firmly, let them know they need to go since you have “stuff to do”. They leave and on your way to the shower you look in the mirror and think to yourself, “THAT was not what I had planned.”
Such is the case with last Saturday’s Florida vs. Tennessee game.
A 10 point win vs. Tennessee used to be enough to have Gator fans dancing in the streets all night long. Instead, 90,000-plus fans filed out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with the, “THAT was not what I had planned” face.
There are a million theories about how this happened.
Everything from "Tennessee is on scholarship too and they’re not going to just stand around and get blown out by 30 points," to "Florida’s WRs are sub-par," to "Florida was stricken with the flu," on down to "Tennessee wasn’t playing to win."
(They weren't. Herm Edwards would be very unhappy.)
It was frustrating beyond belief to listen to the talking heads on the four-letter network say things like, "Florida struggled a bit with Tennessee," and "Tennessee kept it close in the Swamp," and my favorite was something to the effect of "Casey and Rick Clausen both quarterbacked for Tennessee while younger brother Jimmy chose Notre Dame. Had Jimmy been playing for Tennessee, we might be talking about a very interesting game down in Gainesville today."
Anyone who watched the game knows that while Tennessee played hard and the defense played the Gators very tough, Florida didn’t necessarily struggle and the game was never really in doubt.
The Gators had a 23-6 lead with about 10 minutes left to play when Chris Rainey broke off a 12-yard run, followed by another 11-yard run and Florida moving the ball at will against a Tennessee defense that looked tired, hot, and defeated.
A funny thing happened on the way to a 30-6 lead though...
Tebow fumbled inside the Volunteer 10 yard line and it was picked up for a big return by the defense. An uninspired defensive series by Florida led to Tennessee scoring the first TD of the season vs. Florida.
The Gators put the offense into "neutral" the rest of the way and the defense shut down the Vols offense that would have made even Phil Fulmer say, “Man they're conservative”.
Those who didn’t watch saw a close game. Those who saw it all, even from Row 89, saw two hard-nosed teams grinding it out. I see why teams run up the score now though…
If the voters don’t watch, and all they notice is the score and the stats, teams need to give them something to talk about.
The fact of the matter is, Florida and Tennessee have played some exceptional and classic games in the past 10 years. In the Urban Meyer era, Tennessee has scored only five offensive touchdowns in five years. Florida’s offense has not been exceptional vs. the Vols either.
Since 2005, Florida has scored 16, 21, 59, 30, and 23 points. The 59 point game was close before the wheels came off for the Vols and a tipped ball here and there made all the difference. It was also Tebow’s “magical” season. The 30 points in 2008 came thanks to the defense and special teams.
Generally both teams play it very close to the vest against each other. It also deserves to be mentioned, Eric Berry flat out has Tim Tebow's number.
I’m not sure what we can take away about either team from this game other than this:
Tennessee needs a QB in the most serious way. Florida needs wide receivers to step up, especially a slot receiver. Both teams are for real on defense.
All of that being said—fans are just glad that the Gators got a win in conference, especially against the Vols.
It could be worse, just ask USC, Oklahoma State, or BYU. After all, going home with a “No. 5 seed” is always better than going home alone. Beating Tennessee always trumps beating Tennessee (-29.5). In this case, I think some of the players and fans just wanted to beat Tennessee by 100 points so badly that a 10 point win was just…OK.
But that’s the “View from the Top”.
Just for the record…the Gators will likely be abysmal vs. the spread this year. Luckily no games are "actually" played in Vegas. Adjust accordingly.