picks Gators over UT

The Swamp and Neyland Stadium are supposed to be exceptionally imposing stadiums for visiting teams seeking a road win, but you'd never guess it by the recent history of the Tennessee-Florida series.

The Vols have won the last two meetings in Gainesville (34-32 in 2001, 24-10 in 2003), while the Gators have taken two of the last three meetings in Knoxville (27-23 in 2000, 30-13 in 2003). Florida was six seconds shy of another win at Shields-Watkins Field last year, only to have James Wilhoit save the day with a game-winning 50-yard field goal.

Many experts rate Tennessee ahead of Florida this season, yet pick Florida to beat the Vols in their head-to-head meeting. Given the relative insignificance of the homefield advantage in recent UT-UF games, that's a little surprising. One football fan stationed in Iraq was so struck by this apparent irony that he asked about it in a letter to Pete Fiutak, who does a popular mailbag-type column for

Fiutak's reply was very interesting. Here it is:

''Yeah, Tennessee won the last two games in Gainesville and could very well do it again, but in general, you have to go with the averages and think the home team has the better chance. For right or wrong, the breaks seem to go the home team¹s way more often than not (just look at last year¹s UT win over Florida). Talent-wise, it could go either way as both teams are true national title contenders. Sorry for the wishy-washy response, but this is a too-close-to-call game at the moment. Even with recent history, it¹s a home field pick more than anything else.''

Fiutak may be right, of course, but the homefield seems to be a DISADVANTAGE in recent UT-UF games. Will that trend continue? We'll find out Sept. 18 at The Swamp.

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