If you are the type who believes legends then the Tennessee-Florida rivalry officially began on December 8, 1928. If you believe the story that has passed down through the generations – Gator fans tend to believe it; Vol fans say it’s nothing more than a myth – is true, then the sleeping giant that was Florida would have awakened decades earlier than 1990 when Steve Spurrier put it all together and Florida suddenly became a national power that would have to be dealt with for the next 20 years.
The story goes like this:
The Gators traveled to Knoxville unbeaten (8-0), featuring one of the nation’s highest scoring offenses (334 points in eight games) and a stifling defense (allowed only 31 points and posted three shutouts; nobody scored more than a touchdown in a single game) to face once-tied Tennessee (8-0-1), which had posted four shutouts and allowed only 39 points. Led by first-year coach Charlie Bachman, a former Notre Dame star who played with Knute Rockne, Florida was said to be the nation’s fastest team. Tennessee was in its third season under Captain Bob Neyland (became a general later on), a former aide to Douglas MacArthur who had played football at Army with James Van Fleet, who coached Florida football for two years.
When they left for Knoxville, the Gators were under the impression that if they beat the Vols they would be invited to play in the Rose Bowl against California. What they didn’t know is the committee had already selected unbeaten Georgia Tech.
According to the legend, eastern Tennessee was suffering through one of the worst droughts in history that fall, but when the Gators arrived at the stadium for the Saturday game, the field was a quagmire from a “storm” the night before. Supposedly, it was dry as a bone everywhere else but the heavens had opened miraculously right over Shields-Watkins Field. Because of the dry conditions, the Gators hadn’t brought any long cleats for mud and wet fields. Neyland would have loved to share some cleats with the Gators but he barely had enough for his team. Alas, all the sporting goods stores were already closed for the day so the Gators played with their regular cleats.
The Gators allegedly slipped and slid all over the field that day while Tennessee in its long cleats never lacked for traction. Led by Bobby Dodd, who scored Tennessee’s winning touchdown and blocked an extra point that would have tied the game, Tennessee eked out a 13-12 win. As the legend goes, there was so much bad blood between Florida and Neyland after that game that the Gators and Vols played only four more times before Neyland retired after the 1952 season. Florida didn’t start playing Tennessee every year until 1990.
True believers say this is indeed how the Florida-Tennessee rivalry got its start. That’s their story and they are sticking with it.
THE TEBOW CURSE?
What happens if you trade, misuse or cut Tim Tebow? Bad things, man. Really bad things. You could make a case that there is a curse on the folks who do bad things to Tebow in the NFL. Consider the following:
1. Denver traded Tim Tebow and brought in Peyton Manning to win the first Super Bowl since John Elway was finishing up his Hall of Fame career. In the three years since, the Broncos have made it only once to the Super Bowl (2012) and didn’t win. Peyton says he can’t feel his fingertips anymore. Who made the trade that sent Tebow to the Jets? John Elway.
2. The Jets made a big deal out of trading for Tebow and then they misused him. He threw only eight passes and ran 32 times in obvious running situations. The Jets suffered a their first losing record since 2007, the year Tebow won the Heisman at Florida. Tebow was cut after the season. In the two years since the Jets haven’t made the playoffs and Rex Ryan was fired as head coach.
3. Chip Kelly raved about Tebow’s work ethic in August but after his best preseason performance, Kelly unceremoniously cut Tebow and said he’s not good enough to be the third string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are 0-2 out the chute in the regular season and QB Sam Bradford looks like a lost ball in the tall grass.
OPENING VEGAS LINES FOR ALL SEC GAMES THIS WEEK
Florida -2 over Tennessee
Missouri -2-1/2 over Kentucky
Ole Miss -24-1/2 over Vanderbilt
Texas A&M -7-1/2 over Arkansas
LSU -24 over Syracuse
Auburn -4 over Mississippi State
Alabama -37-1/2 over Louisiana-Monroe
South Carolina -15 over UCF
Georgia NO LINE over Southern University
SEC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Co-Offensive Players of the Week: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (228 yards rushing, 3 TDs vs. Auburn) and Greyson Lambert, QB, Georgia (24-25 passing, 330 yards, 3 TDs vs. South Carolina
Defensive Player of the Week: Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss (6 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and ½ sack vs. Alabama)
Special Teams Player of the Week: Gary Wunderlich, PK, Ole Miss (3-3 field goals, 4-4 extra points vs. Alabama)
Freshman of the Week: Preston Williams, WR, Tennessee (3-98 yards receiving, 2 TDs vs. Western Carolina)
Offensive Lineman of the Week: Vadal Alexander, OT, LSU (Graded 90% as LSU ran for 411 yards and gave up 0 sacks vs. Auburn)
Defensive Lineman of the Week: Jonathan Bullard, DT, Florida (5 tackles, 2 sacks for -21 yards vs. Kentucky)
THE SEC IN NCAA STATS
Scoring: (1) Ole Miss 64.0; (Tie, 13) Tennessee 46.0 and Texas A&M 46.0; (15) Georgia 44.7; (Tie, 32) Mississippi State 38.3; (Tie, 38) Alabama 36.3; (44) Florida 35.3; (Tie, 54) LSU 33.0; (82) Arkansas 28.0; (Tie, 88) Auburn 26.3; (Tie, 99) Kentucky 25.0; (Tie, 102) Vanderbilt; (108) Missouri 23.3; (Tie, 115) South Carolina 19.7
Total offense: (Tie, 9) Ole Miss 567.3; (23) Alabama 512.3; (27) Mississippi State 489; (28) Texas A&M 487.7; (33) Georgia 477.7; (35) Arkansas 476.3; (Tie, 50) Vanderbilt 442.0; (54) Tennessee 435.0; (Tie, 75) LSU 411.0; (78) Florida 408.0; (102) Kentucky 358.3; (106) South Carolina 356.3
Sacks allowed: (Tie, 1) Arkansas 0-0; (Tie, 13) LSU 1-5; (Tie, 16) Georgia 2-11; (Tie, 23) Alabama 3-32 and Ole Miss 3-20; (Tie, 39) South Carolina 4-21 and Vanderbilt 4-26; (Tie, 60) Missouri 5-21, Florida 5-22, Auburn 5-24 and Mississippi State 5-38; (Tie, 72) Tennessee 6-52; (Tie, 116) Texas A&M 10-66 and Kentucky 10-72
Turnovers: (Tie, 1) LSU 0; (Tie, 4) Tennessee 1; (Tie, 11) Georgia 2 and South Carolina 2; (Tie, 30) Arkansas 3; (Tie, 48) Florida 4, Kentucky 4 and Ole Miss 4
Scoring defense: (5) Missouri 9.7; (Tie, 20) Florida 15.3; (Tie, 24) Georgia 16.0; (Tie, 26) Mississippi State 16.7; (Tie, 29) Vanderbilt 17.3; (42) LSU 20.0; (49) Arkansas 21.3; (58) Texas A&M 22.3; (Tie, 60) Kentucky 23.0; (63) Alabama 23.3; (64) Tennessee 23.7; (Tie, 92) Auburn 29.7
Total defense: (4) Missouri 217.0; (11) Florida 258.0; (15) Vanderbilt 270.7; (Tie, 26) Georgia 303.0; (36) LSU 319.0; (37) Alabama 325.3; (44) Mississippi State 335.7; (45) Arkansas 336.0; (46) Texas A&M 337.0; (67) Ole Miss 369.7; (70) Kentucky 360.3; (Tie, 78) Tennessee 394.7; (100) Auburn 442.7; (108) South Carolina 471.7
Rushing defense: (7) Florida 55.3; (9) Alabama 72.7; (22) LSU 101.5; (23) Arkansas 103.3; (Tie, 24) Missouri 105.0; (30) Georgia 108.0; (36) Vanderbilt 117.3; (Tie, 70) Tennessee 158.0; (73) Texas A&M 161.7; (75) Ole Miss 164.7; (80) Mississippi State 171.3; (90) Kentucky 187.3; (107) South Carolina 220.3; (Tie, 123) Auburn 270.0
Passing defense: (3) Missouri 112.0; (23) Vanderbilt 153.3; (26) Mississippi State 164.3; (32) Auburn 172.7; (36) Texas A&M 175.3; (50) Kentucky 193.0; (52) Georgia 195.0; (57) Florida 202.7; (59) Ole Miss 205.0; (68) LSU 217.5; (77) Arkansas 232.7; (81) Tennessee 236.7; (91) South Carolina 251.3; (92) Alabama 252.7
Sacks for: (1) Texas A&M 15-80; (Tie, 4) LSU 8-52; (Tie, 7) Florida 11-86; (Tie, 25) Mississippi State 8-57; (Tie, 35) Georgia 7-49 and Missouri 7-35; (Tie, 49) Auburn 6-42, Vanderbilt 6-34 and Georgia 6-30; (Tie, 74) Alabama 5-36, Tennessee 5-30 and South Carolina 5-22; (Tie, 101) Ole Miss 3-26; (Tie, 123) Arkansas 1-6
Turnovers created: (Tie, 1) Ole Miss 10; (Tie, 31) Kentucky 6, Arkansas 6, Tennessee 6 and Florida 6; (Tie, 45) Georgia 5, Arkansas 5, South Carolina 5 and Alabama 5; (Tie, 67) Texas A&M 4; (Tie, 89) Auburn 3; (Tie, 106) Mississippi State 2 and LSU 2; (Tie, 121) Vanderbilt 1
Alabama: It looks like Jacob Coker will be the quarterback vs. Louisiana-Monroe. “At this point, provided he does the things he has to do I think we’ll start him in this game,” said Nick Saban … WR Robert Foster (torn rotator cuff) is done for the season and long snapper Cole Mazza is out indefinitely for “medical reasons.”
Arkansas: The Hogs took another hit to the skill positions as wide receiver Cody Hollister (broken foot) and Jared Cornelius (broken arm) went down with injuries vs. Texas Tech.
Auburn: How’s this for a vote of confidence from Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee for QB Jeremy Johnson. “Yeah, he’s our starter right now,” Lashlee said.
Florida: Although Will Grier started at QB and went bell-to-bell against Kentucky, Jim McElwain says the competition between Grier and Treon Harris isn’t over yet. “We’ll decide as we move forward and that’s something we’ll talk about as we go,” McElwain said Monday ... Out for Saturday’s game with Tennessee are LB Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and LB Jeremi Powell (foot). TE C’yontai Lewis has his hand in a cast and there is no update on when he should return.
Georgia: After overthrowing tight end Jeb Blazevich in the back of the end zone on Georgia’s first possession against South Carolina, Greyson Lambert completed 20 straight passes. Since an 0-5 first half against Vandy in game two, Lambert is 35-41 for 446 yards.
Kentucky: The Wildcats get good news for this week’s game against Missouri. Linebacker Ryan Flanigan (shoulder) has been cleared to play.
LSU: Just call the LSU O-line “The Stepmothers.” Said Leonard Fournette about his big guys up front, “They’re out stepmothers. They protect us in every way.”
Mississippi State: After watching the film of Saturday opponent Auburn, Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott said something nice about the Tigers defense. “It’s a defense that the coach is going to call plays he really trusts his players to make,” Prescott said Monday. Was he watching the same Auburn defense the rest of us watched?
Missouri: Five touchdown passes and four interceptions in three games have convinced a growing number of Tiger fans that it’s time to bail on QB Maty Mauk and turn the offense over to freshman Drew Lock.
Ole Miss: Starting safety Tony Conner could miss 3-4 weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
South Carolina: Steve Spurrier plans to play both Perry Orth and freshman Lorenzo Nunez at QB against UCF. Nunez was South Carolina’s leading rusher against Georgia with 10 carries for 76 yards in his first collegiate action.
Tennessee: Defensive tackle Danny O’Brien will return to the field Saturday against Florida after serving a 2-game suspension. O’Brien started 12 games last season.
Texas A&M: Defensive end Myles Garrett (5.5 sacks for 27 losses in three games) has 17 sacks in 15 collegiate games. The Aggies lead the country with 15 sacks for 80 yards in losses.
Vanderbilt: Sophomore wide receiver Trent Sherfield set a school record with 16 catches for 240 yards and a TD against Austin Peay. This week he’ll be going against Missouri, which has the nation’s #1 pass defense (112 yards allowed per game).
With Tony Romo done for at least seven games with a broken collarbone, who will the Dallas Cowboys sign to backup Brandon Weeden? Robert Griffin III is available and has zero relationship with Washington Redskins starter Kirk Cousins. Griffin wants out and Cousins will help him pack. Tim Tebow has been suggested but that seems like wishful thinking by Tebow fans. An option might be Rex Grossman.
The folks who want Al Golden fired at Miami were probably closer to seeing their wish come true than they could have ever expected when Miami blew a 23-point lead against Nebraska in the fourth quarter. Golden and the Hurricanes lived to fight another day, however, with an overtime field goal to win, 36-33.
Memphis coach Justin Fuente pulled off a double reverse flea flicker for a 48-yard Paxton Lynch to Tevin Jones touchdown pass that tied the Tigers with Bowling Green, 41-41, in the fourth quarter. Memphis went on to win the game, 44-41, to remain unbeaten. If the Tigers beat Cincinnati Thursday night, they probably crack the top 25.
LSU hits the road this week to play Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, which sells beer and wine. The Tigers have sold 7,500 tickets and would sell more if Syracuse had more to sell. The Tigers will be heavily favored. The biggest concern of LSU alumni association vice president Jason Ramezan: “I’ve gone places in the past where they’ve run out of alcohol.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Florida has won the last 10 times against Tennessee. Does this still have the feel of a top rivalry game for you?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson and Bob “The Bear” Hite were still alive, Canned Heat was on its way to legendary status as maybe the greatest west coast blues band ever. Wilson wrote the songs, played slide guitar, harmonica and sang the high pitched lead vocals while Hite put together the rhythms, sang the hard blues songs and played lead guitar. The band recorded seven albums before Wilson died and another seven when Hite died of a heroin overdose. Hite was given some powder that he thought was cocaine, snorted it and collapsed almost instantly. Today’s music is “Living the Blues,” Canned Heat’s third album from 1968.