Florida vs. Tennessee: Why Will Muschamp Needs This Win More Than Derek Dooley

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 13, 2012

Florida head coach Will Muschamp
Florida head coach Will MuschampKim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Remember when Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was on the hottest seat in America?

Wins over N.C. State and Georgia State cooled it a bit, but the confidence emanating from Knoxville stems more from the fact that the Vols look like a legitimate football team for the first time in a long time, rather than the won/loss record.

So who needs to win this weekend's game more, Dooley or Florida head coach Will Muschamp?

The answer is Muschamp.

That's not to say that a loss will send Muschamp to the hot seat.

It won't.

But a loss to the Vols would signify that the Volunteers are legitimate SEC East title contenders, and that's a perch that Muschamp has yet to find during his first year-plus in Gainesville.

Tennessee has already solved its major questions from the offseason. Cordarrelle Patterson has minimized the impact of the late-August departure of wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers. If Marlin Lane runs on Saturday the way he did in the second half versus N.C. State, the running game won't be an issue.

There are some concerns in the Vol secondary, but new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri recognized it early and has brought the heat early and often. Tennessee has five interceptions in two games, and with an offense like they have, all a defense needs to be is opportunistic.

A win wouldn't take Dooley off the hot seat.

His job status is much more volatile than Muschamp's, and that's not going to change no matter what happens on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.

But a win would signify that the Vols have jumped the Gators in the SEC East pecking order, and are ready to be legitimate contenders in the division.

That means a lot. 

It may not have impact on the hot seat status of either of the two coaches, but it will serve as an indicator on the current state of each program.

Long term, each fan base will judge the success or failure of each head coach based on division and conference titles.

But first, they must protect their current real estate. 

A win on Saturday would give Dooley a more desirable plot of land than Muschamp.

Allowing Tennessee to jump Florida and vault into title contention would signify that the building process is still ongoing in Gainesville.

While that's probably true regardless, it'd be a bad look for Muschamp to have the perception that his program is behind the Vols, and team that's been in turmoil since the middle of the 2008 season.


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