On Behalf of the Florida Gators, I Declare This Rivalry Over
In order for there to be a rivalry in college football, there have to be certain elements in place.
One: There needs to be a close proximity between the two combatants. Very few rivalries exist between teams on opposite sides of the country. Notre Dame and USC is the only one that springs to mind.
Two: There should be some real or mythical title to fight for. The Little Brown Jug, the Old Oaken Bucket, The Boot, or the SEC East Division, the Big Ten, the PAC, etc. should be on the line. Even if it's only bragging rights for a state or part of a state, there needs to be something to claim for the winner.
But most importantly, there needs to be some parity. Do you know what makes the Army-Navy rivalry great? It's got all of the above. And most importantly, after 100-plus years, it's almost dead even.
Navy is dominating it now, though, and if this trend continues for another decade or so, people will start to lose interest. Army needs to win a few for the good of the rivalry. Once the rivalry gets the "Aw, Navy always wins that, what else is on?" reaction, it is over.
This brings us to Florida vs Tennessee. Once considered a huge rivalry, it is now dying. No, make that dead. In the '90s, it was huge because the winner often made it to the SEC Championship game and because the battles were epic. There was Wuerffel vs. Manning in '95 and '96. There was the overtime thriller in '98.
Who is Florida's biggest rival?
The winners of all three of those games went on to play for the national title. Florida went in '95 and '96, winning in '96, and Tennessee in '98. In 1997, Florida won the game, but Tennessee went on to win the SEC Title.
In the early 2000s, the rivalry continued. There was the controversy in '00 and '04, with Florida winning in '00 and Tennessee in '04. There was the epic thriller in '01 where both teams were fighting at the end of the season (the game was postponed due to 9/11) for a trip to the SEC Championship Game.
If the UF-UT winner won that, it would be on to the BCS Championship match up in the Rose Bowl with Miami. It came down to a two point conversion try that Tennessee stopped the Gators on. So worn out, the Vols then laid an egg against LSU the following week. Neither team won anything.
In 2005, Florida, tired of the Ron Zook mediocrity, hired Urban Meyer as head coach. In six years, Meyer has managed to kill the rivalry. Of course, he had some help from Phil Fulmer, Mike Hamilton, and—most of all—Lane Kiffin.
Since 2005, Florida is 60-10. They have won two SEC Titles, two BCS Titles, and three BCS Bowl Games. Tennessee is 37-30. They have won one SEC East Title. Head to head, Florida is 6-0. The combined score is Florida 180, Tennessee 78.
That's an average score of Florida 30, Tennessee 13.
So dead is the rivalry now, that on Gator message boards prior to the game, not a Volunteer could be found. And after the game, all Vol fans could do was talk about what awful people Florida fans are and how they don't think Florida should be in the top 10.
This game has now gone the way of the Florida-Georgia rivalry. Once great, but now it is so lopsided that it has become automatic. If there is much more of this in our future, Florida's only rival will be LSU. That is unless Jimbo Fisher can turn things around in Tallahassee.
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