Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers: The Rivalry That Almost Was

Jim FolsomContributorSeptember 13, 2011

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10:  John Brantley #12 of the Florida Gators runs for yardage during a game against the UAB Blazers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

It is the third weekend of the college football season. So, on 3:30 p.m. this Saturday on CBS you will be able to find the Tennessee-Florida game. It's always one of the first CBS SEC games of the year. For a while there it was a much anticipated game and was on its way to becoming another midseason big rivalry game like Miami-FSU and Texas-Oklahoma.

But a funny thing happened.

UT vanished.

For a rivalry to exist, there must be some parity.

For a while we had that in the UF-UT rivalry, but that is no longer the case. When the SEC split into two divisions, UT and UF had been one of those once-in-a-while SEC matchups. But since both were put into the SEC East, this would mean an annual matchup would have to take place.

In the early '90s, UT was hanging with the Gators. In 1990 and 1992, the Vols thumped the Gators pretty handily. Florida won a low-scoring affair in 1991 and won again at home in 1993.

Then, in 1994, The Vols landed a quarterback that coach Steve Spurrier wanted to come to Gainesville very badly.

He was a QB by the name of Peyton Manning.

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Tennessee looked to be set for the near future—but the Gators proceeded to beat Peyton for four straight years in what were some pretty outstanding offensive games. This set Florida up to dominate the series.

Since 1993, the Gators have gone 13-4 against Tennessee, including taking the last six in a row. Take away the three years of Zook and UT has a record of 2-12.

Tennessee has such a little brother complex when it comes to Florida that when Lane Kiffen was hired to coach three years ago, he felt it necessary to trash talk in the media about beating Florida, even though at the time Florida was ranked No. 1 as the defending national champs.

It was both sad and funny at the same time.

So was watching Kiffen walk out the door as soon as another job offer came his way a year later.

The Tennessee game to Florida has been relegated to an afterthought—much like the Kentucky or Vanderbilt games. Florida has so dominated the SEC East in the two decades that the East has existed that they almost take all these games for granted now.

In 20 years of SEC East play, which would be 100 games, the Gators have four losses to Tennessee, three to Georgia and two to South Carolina. That's what? 91-9?

So how can anyone in the East claim to be a rival?

Well, Georgia at least still leads the all-time series. At the rate it's going, that should change by around 2020.

But Georgia and Florida go back generations.

Grandfathers and fathers have taught their young ones all about why they are supposed to hate the other. With Tennessee-Florida there is none of that.

It was on its way to becoming a good rivalry once.