Is it a big rivalry or a big game?

Published: Saturday, September 15, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 6:07 p.m.

Sun columnist Pat Dooley and UF football beat writer Robbie Andreu hash out the debate: Is UF-UT a big rivarly or a big game. You can also vote in our poll on and voice your opinion on our message boards.


10 biggest UF-UT games

1. 2001
* The scene: Moved to the last game of the regular season because of 9/11, there has never been more on the line than in 2001 - the SEC East, a shot at a national title and the Heisman Trophy.
* The result: Florida missed a two-point conversion and Tennessee won 34-32.
* The aftermath: It turned out to be Steve Spurrier's last UF-UT game. Tennessee went on to the SEC title game where it lost to LSU.

2. 1996
* The scene: This was billed as a Game of the Century with Florida ranked fourth and Tennessee No. 2. It was also a Heisman showdown between Danny Wuerffel and Peyton Manning.
* The result: Florida scored the first 35 points of the game and held on to win 35-29.
* The aftermath: The Gators cruised to the SEC East title and went on to win the national title. Tennessee went to the Citrus Bowl giving Spurrier a new set of jokes.

3. 1928
* The scene: Florida led the nation in scoring and was undefeated. Rumors of a possible Rose Bowl berth were circulating when the Gators traveled to Knoxville.
* The result: Whether Tennessee watered down the field to slow Florida or not, the Gators missed two extra points and lost 13-12.
* The aftermath: It was the final game of the season for both teams. Florida went 8-1, Tennessee 9-0-1. Georgia Tech went to the Rose Bowl.

4. 1991
* The scene: Night game, two teams ranked in the top 10, ESPN in town. This had all the trappings of a huge game.
* The result: Florida knocked off the fourth-ranked Volunteers 35-18 with big plays by the defensive backs including Larry Kennedy's interception for a score.
* The aftermath: Florida won its first-ever SEC title and went on to the Sugar Bowl. Tennessee lost to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.

5. 1969
* The scene: This wouldn't happen today but this was a matchup of two teams in the same conference in the Gator Bowl. Plus, there was the rumor that would not go away - that Tennessee coach Doug Dickey would be Florida's coach the following season.
* The result: Florida linebacker Mike Kelley had a big day and was the MVP as Florida won 14-13.
* The aftermath: Dickey did return to his alma mater while Tennessee hired Bill Battle to be its next coach.

6. 1997
* The scene: Florida was No. 1 in the coaches poll while Tennessee was No. 4. This was Peyton Manning's last shot at the Gators and Doug Johnson's first against Tennessee.
* The result: The Vols couldn't handle Jauez Green and Florida rolled to a 33-20 victory.
* The aftermath: Florida slipped twice during the season and ended up in the Citrus Bowl. Peyton Manning finally got that elusive SEC title with a win over Auburn in Atlanta.

7. 1970
* The scene: Nice of the SEC to schedule Florida and Tennessee for the year after Dickey switched sides. ABC thought enough of the situation to televise the game. Jack Youngblood thought enough of it to jump on a bench and shake his rear at the Tennessee fans.
* The result: The Vols got back at their former coach with a resounding 38-7 win in Knoxville.
* The aftermath: Florida finished Dickey's first season with a 7-4 record and no bowl game. The team Dickey left behind finished 10-1 and beat Air Force in the Sugar Bowl.

8. 1985
* The scene: Florida had won the previous year in Knoxville and the 14th-ranked Vols wanted revenge. For seventh-ranked Florida, every game was its bowl game because of probation.
* The result: Florida's defense throttled Tennessee quarterback Tony Robinson as the Gators won 17-10.
* The aftermath: The Gators finished 9-1-1 but stayed home because of NCAA probation. The Vols finished 9-1-2 and beat Miami 35-7 in the Sugar Bowl.

9. 1995
* The scene: Both teams were ranked in the top 10 when the Vols came to town with a new starter at quarterback named Manning.
* The result: After falling behind 30-14, Florida scored the next 48 points and won 62-37.
* The aftermath: Florida won the SEC and played for the national championship. Tennessee finished 11-1 and beat Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl.

10. 1999
* The scene: Tennessee was coming off a national championship and was ranked second. Florida was ranked fourth.
* The result: The Gator defense made a late stand to preserve a 23-21 victory.
* The aftermath: Florida lost to Alabama in the SEC title game and played in the Citrus Bowl. Tennessee finished 9-3, losing in the Fiesta Bowl.

— Pat Dooley

Volunteers in Top 3 of Gator rivals


Sun sports columnist

Phillip Fulmer has been making noises again this week that he'd like to see Florida-Tennessee moved to later in the year because it would make it an even bigger game.

Nah, I think where it's situated is what makes it such a big game.

Third week of the season, loser wonders if its quest for the East is over, winner feels like the division title becomes a birthright. It's what makes it a big game.

But no matter when it's played, it would be a big rivalry.

The game may have become a big rivalry because of when it is played but now they could play it in July with nothing on the line and it would matter.

Blame Steve Spurrier. Or Jack Sell, the former Tennessee assistant who faxed UT plays to Florida defensive coordinator Ron Zook. Or whoever allegedly poured a cup of urine on Vicki Fulmer. Or Al Matthews, who gave Jabar Gaffney a game-winning touchdown catch. Or Doug Dickey for switching from Tennessee to Florida after the 1969 season and then switching back to be the Vols' athletic director. Definitely blame it on Tennessee's administration for pushing to strip Florida of its first SEC title following the 1984 season.

But it's a big rivalry.

Not the biggest.

But big.

It's in the top three.

It's amazing that it is because these two teams didn't play on an annual basis until 1990. Already there was some bad blood between the two schools because of the Dickey fiasco and the 1928 game. OK, maybe the ’28 game doesn't resonate with Gator fans but they have been told enough about Tennessee watering down the field that it adds to the venom.

But once they started playing on a regular basis, the only other thing that changed was that they shared the same division. Still, the intensity between the two schools was amped up.

The tension of this rivalry is proof that you don't have to be in the same state or even be neighbors to dislike each other.

Florida fans look at Tennessee orange as if it was a watered-down version of the real thing. Tennessee fans think Gator fans are unsophisticated louts who wear jean shorts.

Florida fans think the million dollars that Fulmer and his wife gave to the school went directly to slush fund to pay players. Tennessee fans think Florida fans were behind the conspiracy to deny Peyton Manning the Heisman Trophy he deserved.

The game that really turned this into a true rivalry was probably that 1991 game when Faxgate was the issue in midweek and fans at Florida Field were standing on their heads. But when it really exploded was in 1995 when Florida put together that amazing run. The following year might have been the most hyped game I've ever covered.

That was the year it got chippy, with Florida players making comments before, during and after the game. And the rivalry has continued.

It depends on the year as to the order you'd rank UF's rivals — Georgia, FSU and Tennessee. But we know it's a rivalry because Florida says it is. When they talk about Urban Meyer's accomplishments, they point to his record in rivalry games — 6-0.

Mostly, I know it's a rivalry because of one thing.

Tim Tebow says it is.

Certainly it's a big game, but not a rivalry yet


Sun sports writer

Some might say it's hard not to call this a great rivalry.

Well, let's try.


There, that wasn't so hard, now, was it? Actually, it was quite easy and felt pretty good.

Florida-Tennessee is a big game, a monster game, because of the implications it has had since the SEC broke into two divisions in 1992. But that's not nearly long enough. This game does not have enough history to rate as a great rivalry.

Please, don't even mention the 1928 game in Knoxville with the frozen field and all those fuzzy black-and-white snapshots buried in a dusty book in your grandfather's garage. That happened so long ago that anyone old enough to remember it has forgotten it by now (sorry, Dad).

Heck, the majority of UF fans think the history of Florida football began with Steve Spurrier — the coach, not the player. So forget about that Roaring ’20s moment in Knoxville (I know, the majority of Florida fans have no idea what the Roaring ’20s were).

History. There's not enough history here.

No history, no rivalry.

It's as simple as that.

For Florida, Tennessee doesn't compare to Georgia. And it can't touch Florida State. It's the same for Tennessee. Alabama is a great rivalry. Florida is a team the Vols have to beat to win the division. That's it.

Yes, there is plenty of dislike between the two teams. But, seriously, do any two teams in the SEC get along? Of course not.

Gators and ’Dogs, Gators and Seminoles, obsess over each other throughout the year. Gators and Vols couldn't care less about one other until the second or third Saturday in September rolls around. When's the last time you avoided (or intentionally ran into) a Vol at the health club? When's the last time you flipped off a car just because it had a Tennessee bumper sticker?

No hate, no history, no rivalry.

Anyone who thinks Florida-Tennessee is a great rivalry probably is convinced The Players is golf's fifth major. Not!

The Players has the world's strongest field, has a memorable back nine and draws a huge gallery and television audience. But it's not The Masters or the U.S. Open, or even the PGA Championship because it doesn't have enough history. It needs more time to percolate.

Florida-Tennessee is The Players of college football rivalries. It's a great matchup, a big game and one of the most prominent events in college football. But it needs a little more time, a little more history, before it grows into a great rivalry.

The Vols and Gators will be meeting for only the 37th time today. For two schools that have been playing football for more than 100 years and are separated by only about an eight-hour drive, 37 games seems like only a handful. A handful does not a rivalry make.

For long stretches of time over the decades, the Gators and Vols barely brushed one another. They didn't start body-slamming on a yearly basis until 1990. For those who don't think Florida football started with the arrival of Spurrier (the coach), that's not a very long time.

Of course, the memorable moments in this series are starting to pile up fast. Just give it a little more time, and it will happen.

Florida-Tennessee will be a great college football rivalry.

Get back to me in, say, 2020.

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