For the first time in over a decade, the narrative around the Florida game is different. When Tennessee and Florida play each other this Saturday, it will be the first time since 2005 that the Gators are the team looking for revenge.
Last season, the Vols dumped on 38 unanswered points at home in Neyland Stadium to stun the Gators 38-28 and end an 11-game losing streak to their biggest SEC East rival. And that means that for the first time in over a decade, the Gators are trying to prevent Tennessee from earning a winning streak against them.
The Vols haven’t had a winning streak of at least two games over the Gators since they won in back-to-back years in 2003-04. In fact, since the two started playing annually in 1990, that’s the only winning streak Tennessee has had against Florida. The Gators, meanwhile, have had three streaks against the Vols, winning five straight from 1993-97, two straight in 1999 and 2000, and the 11-game streak from 2005-15.
Since 1990, the Gators have been the team looking for revenge just seven times counting this year. The Vols have been the team seeking revenge 20 times since 1990.
Tennessee hasn’t beaten the Gators in Gainesville since 2003 when quarterback Casey Clausen and a stout Tennessee defense helped propel the Vols to a 24-10 victory. Since then, the Gators have won six consecutive games in the Swamp, and only once has the game been decided by one score. Every other time, Florida has won by at least two scores while hosting the Vols.
This is a new feeling for the Vols, at least new enough that a whole generation of fans have been born and raised up since the last time Tennessee tried to build a winning streak against the Gators. A child born in 2005, the last time the Vols were defending a win against Florida, would be 12 years old now. They’ve grown up not knowing what it feels like to see Tennessee win against Florida, let alone defend that victory. Even children who were born in the early 2000s weren’t old enough to really remember the wins the Vols had over the Gators in 2001, 2003, and 2004.
An entire generation of Vol fans aren’t used to seeing the Vols try and earn a winning streak over Florida. And that’s why the narrative shifting for this game is important for Tennessee fans everywhere and for the rivalry itself.
For years, the story around the biggest rivalry in the SEC East has been whether or not it’s even a rivalry anymore because of Florida’s dominance. Tennessee lost year after year after year to the Gators, and sometimes it wasn’t even close.
But Tennessee ended that streak in 2016, and now they have a chance to truly make the series a rivalry again.
For the first time in over a decade, the story of the Tennessee-Florida rivalry has changed. And Vol fans are hoping for a streak of their own to brag about in just a few days.