A few things you might not know about the Florida-Tennessee rivalry:
1. The last time the Vols beat the Gators was 2004 when James Wilhoit kicked a 50-yard field goal with six seconds left to beat the Gators, 30-28. If the zebras had done their job, Florida would have escaped with a 28-27 win. With 55 seconds remaining Tennessee defensive back Jonathan Wade hit Dallas Baker across the helmet with an open hand. Baker shoved Wade and was hit with a 15-yard penalty. It should have been offsetting penalties and the officials also toyed with the clock that helped Tennessee drive to the winning field goal. The SEC reprimanded the officiating crew for both the lack of offsetting penalties and the clock errors.
2. The Gators are 19-6 against Tennessee since 1990 and hold a 25-19 record all time against the Vols.
3. Steve Spurrier went 8-4 against the Vols while Ron Zook was 1-2, Urban Meyer 6-0 and Will Muschamp 4-0. If you go by decades the Gators were 7-3 from 1990-99; 7-3 from 2000-09 and 5-0 from 2010-present.
4. From 1992-2001, the winner of the Florida-Tennessee game went on to represent the East Division in the SEC Championship Game.
5. In the six years under Urban Meyer, the Gators outscored Tennessee, 180-83, and in the four years under Muschamp, the Gators outscored the Vols, 111-61.
6. This year’s game is the first time since 1955 that neither Florida nor Tennessee will be ranked coming into the game. From 1990-2008 both teams were ranked. The Gators were ranked #1 in both 1994 (UF won, 31-0) and 2009 (UF won, 23-13). The highest the Vols were ranked was #2 in 1996 (Florida won, 35-29).
7. Peyton Manning never beat the Gators. He was 0-3 as a starter and was on the losing side when he came off the bench in 1994 as a true freshman.
THE NEYLAND CONNECTION
You could make a case that General Bob Neyland is one of the more influential figures in modern Florida football history. Starting with Bob Woodruff in 1950, most of the head coaches at the University of Florida are branches on the Neyland coaching tree. Here is a look at all the Florida head coaches since 1950 who are connected to the legendary Tennessee coach.
Bob Woodruff (1950-59): Woodruff was a two-way tackle for Neyland, then became the offensive line coach where he mentored center Ray Graves in 1940-41. In the nine years Woodruff was the UF coach, the Gators went 53-42-6 and went to the first two bowl games in school history.
Ray Graves (1960-69): Graves was the starting center for Neyland in 1940-41. Following World War II and an NFL career, Graves became the defensive coordinator for Vols legend and Neyland protégé Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech. He became the head coach at Florida in 1960 and took the Gators to a 70-31-4 record, their most successful decade in history at that time.
Doug Dickey (1970-78): Dickey was a quarterback for Woodruff at Florida. After his tour of duty in the Army, Dickey went to work for Frank Broyles at Arkansas. Broyles was a great collegiate quarterback at Georgia Tech under Dodd. He was a Woodruff assistant at Florida in 1950 and was the offensive coordinator on the same staff with Graves at Georgia Tech from 1951-56. Dickey succeeded Bowden Wyatt at Tennessee where he went 46-15-4 and won two SEC championships. Dickey was a controversial hire to succeed Graves. In nine years at UF, Dickey’s teams went 58-43-2.
Galen Hall (1984-89): Hall spent 10 years as the offensive coordinator for Barry Switzer, a former Arkansas player and assistant coach under Broyles. Hall came to Florida as offensive coordinator for Charley Pell in 1984 and three games into the season became head coach when Pell was forced to resign. Under Hall, the Gators went 40-18-1.
Steve Spurrier (1990-2001): Spurrier grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee, just a short ride up the highway from Knoxville, but Bowden Wyatt and the Vols ran single wing and Spurrier was a pro-style passer. Ray Graves got regular scouting reports about Spurrier from his brother Marvin, who was the postmaster in Johnson City. Graves asked permission from Tennessee AD Bob Woodruff and head coach Bowden Wyatt, to recruit Spurrier, who won the Heisman at UF in 1966 and lead the Gators to a 122-27-1 record, six SEC titles and one national championship as head coach.
Ron Zook (2002-04): Zook was the defensive backs coach at Tennessee for Johnny Majors, who nearly won the Heisman in 1956. Majors played for and coached under Neyland protégé Bowden Wyatt at UT, then coached four years for Broyles at Arkansas. Zook was 23-14 as head coach at Florida.
Will Muschamp (2011-14): The Muschamp connection to Neyland is through Tommy Tuberville (Auburn) and Mack Brown (Texas). Tuberville coached for Jimmy Johnson at Miami. Johnson played and assisted Frank Broyles at Arkansas. Brown was Barry Switzer’s offensive coordinator at Oklahoma before head coaching jobs at Tulane, North Carolina and Texas. Muschamp was 28-21 at Florida.
If you go back far enough in the coaching careers of their mentors, you can also say that Charley Pell, Urban Meyer and Jim McElwain are part of the Neyland coaching tree although you would have to call them twigs or leaves and not branches.
THE END OF THE DYNASTY?
“All good things must come to an end; it was the same with the wildwood weed” – Jim Stafford, “The Wildwood Weed,” 1974
Has the Alabama dynasty come to an end? The way the two previous seasons have ended and this early loss to Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa have the faithful scratching their heads while analysts such as Dan Wolken of USAToday are saying it’s over.
Appearing on Paul Finebaum’s show Monday, Wolken said, “Things have changed at Alabama. There’s now a big enough sample size that we can measure it with numbers. The number that stands out to me is since beating Notre Dame for the championship in 2012, Alabama has played nine games against teams that are ranked in the top 15 in the polls and their record in those games is 4-5. What that indicates to me is that no longer is Alabama a program that you should expect to win all of these games. It’s a program that now, when they are on the field against a team with similar talent, it’s a coin flip game … Alabama is no longer a great team. They’re just a very good program that might win or might lose when they play another very good team.”
Alabama’s calling card from 2008-12 was a shut down defense that presented scoring opportunities to the offense on a silver platter. The offensive lines were so good Bama could line up, ram it down an opponent’s throat and then pick and choose when it wanted to throw the ball downfield. Since that 2012 national championship, it’s been evident that Bama’s defense struggles with teams that spread the field and the offensive lines haven’t been nearly as good.
One loss isn’t the end of a season or national championship hopes. Ohio State, after all, lost badly to Virginia Tech in game two last year then went on to win the national championship, but the similarities in Bama’s losses to Auburn and Ohio State last year and Ole Miss this year raise questions about what happens next. Of the seven remaining SEC games on the schedule, only Arkansas and Tennessee – both home games – seem like safe calls for the win column. The other five could be deemed losable.
Could Bama fans tolerate a 3-loss regular season after two straight non-championship years? How about Nick Saban? Would a 3-loss season crank up the wanderlust that has been almost a calling card in his career?
It’s way too early to say the Bama dynasty is over – Alabama is 86-13 since 2008 – but for the first time we’re seeing a measure of fallibility in the monster that Saban has created. Is it an aberration or a sign of things to come?
KEY MATCHUPS THIS WEEK IN THE SEC
Alabama (2-1, 0-1 SEC): Alabama has to address the lack of production by a wide receiver corps that will go the rest of the season without Robert Foster (rotator cuff). Oregon State transfer Richard Mullaney (10-106, 2 TDs) is the only Alabama wide receiver averaging 10 or more yards per catch. Bama’s passing has to get untracked this week against a Louisiana-Monroe secondary that is giving up 8.9 yards per pass attempt and hasn’t turned an opponent over in two games.
Arkansas (1-2, 0-0 SEC): When the season began, Arkansas tackles Denver Kirkland (6-5, 343) and Dan Skipper (6-10, 340) were touted as two of the best in the country. Their job this week is to figure out a way to stop Texas A&M edge rushers Myles Garrett (5.5 sacks for -27 yards) and Daeshon Hall (4 sacks for -20 yards).
Auburn (2-1, 0-1 SEC): Gus Malzahn has finally seen enough of Jeremy Johnson. Sean White will get the start at QB Saturday when Mississippi State comes to town. Because Mississippi State DC Manny Diaz is known to bring some sort of blitz on every single play, the critical matchup for Auburn will be White reading the defense and getting the Tigers in and out of the right plays.
Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Against South Carolina last year, Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs showed what a one-man wrecking crew he can be if you let him break containment. Dobbs threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns plus ran for 166 and three more. In game two, Oklahoma forced him to be a pocket passer and his numbers were below average – 13-31 passing for 125 yards and 14 carries for 12 yards. If Florida’s front four can keep Dobbs in the pocket and at or near those numbers, there will be reasons to celebrate in Gainesville Saturday night.
Georgia (3-0, 2-0 SEC): There are no key matchups for Georgia against D1AA sacrificial lamb Southern University. The goal for the Bulldogs has to be get the starters some work without incurring any critical injuries.
Kentucky (2-1, 1-1 SEC): Missouri rarely sees the need to bring the heat with anything more than its front four (87 sacks in the last 27 games; only 8.5 by someone other than a D-lineman), which allows the Tigers to drop seven with two deep safeties. Task one for Kentucky will be to keep Patrick Towles upright. Task two will be for the Wildcats to get enough of a running threat to freeze the linebackers and keep them out of coverage as much as possible.
LSU (2-0, 2-0 SEC): Syracuse has given up only 120 yards (1.52 per attempt) in three games and they’ll stack the box again with the hopes of slowing down Leonard Fournette (382 yards, 8.2 per carry, 6 TDs). At some point the Tigers are going to need Brandon Harris (21-31, 145 yards, 1 TD in two games) to throw the football down the field rather than dink and dunk. This would be a good week for Harris to become acquainted with Travin Dural and Malachie Dupre, who are two of the fastest wide receivers in the country.
Mississippi State (2-1, 0-1 SEC): Auburn’s two Division I opponents have run for a combined 649 yards while averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per attempt. If the Bulldogs are going to knock off Auburn for a second straight year, someone other than Dak Prescott has to run the ball effectively. If Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway can move the chains with their feet, Prescott should have a big day against the Auburn secondary.
Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC): Because the offense shows no sign of figuring things out, Mizzou’s defense can’t afford a bad game. The Tigers (105 yards, 2.63 per carry) figure to be good against the Kentucky run game. The key matchup will be Charles Harris (3 sacks, -18 yards) against left tackle Jordan Swindle. Swindle was consistently beaten last week by Alex McCalister. Harris is every bit as quick.
Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The Land Sharks have been great turning over opponents (3 fumbles, 7 interceptions) and that’s been done without great pressure on opposing QBs (only three sacks so far). Vandy’s only chance to knock off the Rebels will be through the air so that means the Ole Miss defense has to dial up the pressure to keep those national championship dreams dancing in their heads.
SOUTH CAROLINA (1-2, 0-2 SEC): Freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez proved against Georgia that he can run the ball (10-76). He gets the start against UCF this week and he will have to prove he can throw the ball downfield against a secondary that is giving up 279 yards per game and 8.9 yards per pass attempt.
Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC): With Curt Magitt out for several more weeks with a hip injury, the pressure to pressure the passer is on the shoulders of Derek Barnett, who came up with 10 sacks for 52 yards in losses last year as a freshman but through three games so far, he’s been shut out. The key matchup for the Vols will be Barnett against Florida left tackle David Sharpe. If Barnett can’t bring the heat on the UF quarterbacks, then the Vols are going to have a tough time getting off the field defensively.
Texas A&M (3-0, 0-0 SEC): The worst nightmare for the Arkansas defense will be the Texas A&M offense on the field. It’s likely the Hogs revert to ground and pound to play a bit of defense with their offense. After holding Arizona State to 92 yards in game one, they’ve given up 293 yards in the last two games against inferior opponents. If the Aggies are to stop the Hogs from running the ball with any consistency, freshman nose tackle Daylon Mack (6-1, 320, 11 tackles including 4 for loss so far) is going to have to handle Arkansas center Mitch Smothers and cover two gaps.
Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC): For Vanderbilt to have any chance at all to knock off Ole Miss in Oxford, Johnny McCrary has to remember he’s supposed to throw the ball to guys who wear the same color shirt he’s wearing. He’s thrown five picks in three games. If he throws multiple picks against the Ole Miss Land Sharks, Vandy has no shot at all.
Another sign that the wheels are coming off down at UCF: Tailback William Stanback, an All-American Athletic Conference first teamer last year, has been dismissed from the team. The Knights are 0-3 and should go to 0-4 this weekend.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson defended defensive end Mike Tuaua and wide receiver Andre Petties-Wilson, who were arrested on one count each of robbery with bodily injury. Patterson said both players are good kids who are well-liked by teammates. “It’s not even close to what happened south of here,” Patterson said, obviously referring to Baylor.
A group of Florida State students are trying to raise $500 for a banner urging Miami to keep Al Golden as head coach that will be flown over Doak Campbell Stadium when UM visits Doak Campbell Stadium October 10. On Go Fund Me, FSU student Joseph Johnson writes, “Al Golden has done a terrific job in keeping Miami irrelevant. Cane fans want him gone. However in Tallahassee we love Coach Golden, that’s why we want to show our love in three weeks when the Canes come to Tallahassee with a banner that will fly over the stadium for an hour.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What are your biggest concerns about Tennessee heading into Saturday night?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Since I missed an obvious musical choice on Monday – “21st of September” by Earth, Wind and Fire – today is a make up day. This is Earth, Wind and Fire live from Japan in 1988 back when both Maurice White and Phillip Bailey handled the vocals. The band is still touring and they still do a great show, but it’s nothing like the shows from the 1970s and 1980s.