Randy Smith: Nothing Like Florida Week

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
As expected on Tuesday, the Florida Gators announced their SEC game with Tennessee will be played as scheduled Saturday at 3:30 in the Swamp.
I really never expected otherwise. There is no way the Gators would give up their home field advantage and face the hated Volunteers on a neutral field, no matter how much damage Hurricane Irma had done in Gainesville. Florida must think this is still a big SEC rivalry.

In terms of wins and losses, this really hasn't been a "real" rivalry in a long time. Back in the 1990s when the Vols and Gators dominated the SEC and were both among the top programs in all of college football, Florida still won much more often than Tennessee did. Fast forward to 2017 and the Vols are hoping to get a winning streak started over the Gators. The Vols won last year in Knoxville, snapping a ten game winning streak for Florida.

The Gators lead the all time series 26-20 but they have won 26 of the last 36 meetings. I always thought a rivalry was a series that was closely contested but in the case of Florida versus Tennessee that is not exactly the case.

Earlier this morning I watched a replay of the 1995 game in the Swamp; a game that with Peyton Manning, the Vols held a 30-14 lead in the first half, only to lose the game 62-37. Steve Spurrier was at his very best with his "fun and gun" offense as the Gators were in the midst of a five game winning streak. This game was still so painful to watch as when the Gators started rolling in the second half there was no stopping them.

Back in the 1990s the fans on both sides really got into Tennessee-Florida week. Restaurants all over the Volunteer state served Gator meat, prepared several different ways. The Vols were accused back then of choking against the Gators, or as then head coach Phillip Fulmer called it, "being all puckered up." Being "puckered up" isn't really something the present day Volunteers are faced with. They won last year and should have won two years ago in the Swamp. The 2017 game gives Tennessee a great chance to win because for the first time in many years, Florida is winless going into the Tennessee game. The Gators lost to Michigan in game one and last weeks game with Northern Colorado was cancelled due to Irma. In the one game the Gators have played, they were completely inept offensively. Now Florida is still very good defensively but I'm not really sure the Gators can score enough points to win.

Some pundits have predicted that Tennessee will win on Saturday. They do have a chance because Florida just isn't very good. I'm not so sure how good Tennessee is even though the Vols are 2-0 on the year, but unless they suddenly become "all puckered up" they will have a chance. I'll have my SEC picks for week number three tomorrow.   

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.



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