Will open date help vs. Florida?

With additional time to implement a gameplan and heal the wounded, Tennessee's open date this weekend is supposed to help the Vols beat Florida on Sept. 21. Historically, though, open dates have not benefited the Big Orange against the Gators. In fact, the extra time seems to be a hindrance.

Phillip Fulmer has faced Florida 10 times as a head coach. He stands just
1-4 in games played following an open date, even though three of these games
were staged at Neyland Stadium. Conversely, he is 2-3 in games played
without an open date, although three of the games were held at Ben Hill
Griffin Stadium ... a.k.a The Swamp.

Here's a game-by-game recap of Fulmer's tussles with Florida:

UT won 31-14 in 1992 WITHOUT an open date.
UT lost 41-34 in 1993 WITHOUT an open date.
UT lost 31-0 in 1994 WITHOUT an open date.
UT lost 62-37 in 1995 WITHOUT an open date.
UT lost 35-29 in 1996 following an open date.
UT lost 33-20 in 1997 following an open date.
UT won 20-17 (overtime) in 1998 following an open date.
UT lost 23-21 in 1999 following an open date.
UT lost 27-23 in 2000 following an open date.
UT won 34-32 in 2001 WITHOUT an open date.

Oddly enough, Fulmer is 16-0 following open dates when playing an opponent
other than Florida. He is 5-0 vs. Alabama, 4-0 vs. South Carolina, 2-0 vs.
Kentucky, 2-0 vs. Ole Miss, 1-0 vs. LSU, 1-0 vs. Auburn and 1-0 vs. Memphis.
All told, the Vol coach is 17-4 following open dates.

Here's a year-by-year recap of Fulmer's post-open date games:

1993: beat South Carolina 55-3, beat Kentucky 48-0
1994: beat South Carolina 31-22, beat Memphis 24-13
1995: beat South Carolina 56-21, beat Kentucky 34-31
1996: lost to Florida 35-29, beat Ole Miss 41-3, beat Alabama 20-13
1997: lost to Florida 20-33, beat Ole Miss 31-17, beat South Carolina 22-7
1998: beat Florida 20-17 OT, beat Auburn 17-9, beat Alabama 35-18
1999: lost to Florida 23-21, beat Alabama 21-7
2000: lost to Florida 27-23, beat Alabama 20-10
2001: beat LSU 26-18 (after two weeks off), beat Alabama 35-24

How do Tennessee's players feel about this particular open-date week? Not
surprisingly, they're split on the issue.

''I think it's good,'' tight end Jason Witten said. ''You rest some injuries
and get guys over their bumps and bruises. I think it's going to be good to
have a week off before facing Florida because we're going to have to prepare
a lot offensively for them.''

Conversely, linebacker Eddie Moore would rather line up and play than sit
back and wait.

''I think I'd rather do it (play this weekend) but some of the other players
would probably want the time to heal,'' he said.

Asked if he thinks the extra week is a benefit in getting ready for the
Gators, Moore shrugged.

''In a way it is and in a way it ain't,'' he said. ''With two weeks off,
it'll take you a couple of snaps to get back into the game atmosphere. To
me, I'd rather go right back out and play.''


Inside Tennessee Top Stories