Monday’s announcement that Tennessee’s game against Florida on October 4th would kickoff at noon was met with disgust by both Tennessee and Florida fans alike. A game of this magnitude can’t begin at noon, can it? This is a rivalry game between two eastern division foes, a classic Southeastern Conference battle that has championship implications. To put this game in the middle of the day would just be…dumb.
A noon start for the Florida game? Noon?! That’s dumb. Florida’s dumb. But most of all, Will Muschamp is dumb.
— Corey (@Coreyyy) September 22, 2014
Why is the Florida game at noon. That’s dumb. — Erica Lowe (@Erica_Lowe) September 22, 2014
Why is the Florida game at noon? That’s so dumb
— Mr.Helton (@Cody_Helton24) September 22, 2014
Noon Florida game – so dumb. — ✌️ Libby ✌️ (@Libby_H_21) September 22, 2014
Noon kickoff for the Florida game? Dumb.
— Celeste Miller (@celeste_nichole) September 22, 2014
But is having this game at noon really that dumb?
Sure, it certainly takes away a little bit (ok, a lot) of the Knoxville game day magic, but this isn’t 1998 anymore…It isn’t even 2008 anymore. In the last three years, Tennessee and Florida have a combined record of 37-37, one bowl win, and no SEC eastern division titles.
Not quite the storyline that the CBS’s and ESPN’s of the world are looking for in their primetime slots.
That being said, the noon game on the SEC Network is actually better than the 4:00pm game because the Vols won’t have to compete for viewers against Bama vs. Ole Miss. They will, instead, be competing with Texas A&M and Mississippi State. And if you were wondering what real disrespect looks like, look no further than the Aggies vs. Bulldogs matchup (both top-15 teams) kicking off at 11:00am local time in Starkville on the same day.
No, the Vols/Gators matchup isn’t even going to be the biggest game during the noon time slot – a true testament to just how far these programs have fallen in recent years.
The lack of national attention doesn’t mean this game is any less important for Tennessee, however, as the Vols will be looking to end a nine game skid against the gators and prevent them from securing a true decade of dominance (that hurt to type).
The good news for Tennessee is that a noon game may actually play into their favor against a Florida team that appears to be on the edge of a total collapse.
Florida is coming off of a disastrous loss in Tuscaloosa this past weekend that included the most yards ever surrendered by a Florida team and now has a week off to stew over it. Muschamp and his staff are already fielding questions about their offensive play calling and defensive ineptitude through three games and that will likely serve as a pretty big distraction over the next two weeks in Gainesville.
The Vols have also played pretty well in the noon time slot under Butch Jones. Tennessee took 3 out of 4 noon games last year including the win over a South Carolina team that would finish the season ranked 4th in the country. If you were there for that noon kickoff, you know how electric the atmosphere was – crowd participation for a noon Florida kick won’t be an issue.
Neyland will be rocking.
Tennessee will also be coming off of a noon start in Athens against the Bulldogs, so the preparation schedule will at least be familiar to them.
A noon game is much tougher on the road team than the home team, especially when you consider that Gator fans are much less likely to travel for such an early game against a team that many of them feel is primed for a big win. Also, Florida is full of players that were very highly recruited and who would seemingly thrive in the spotlight of big games – this may explain why they were able to hang with Alabama for a half. A noon game on a new network doesn’t carry the same magnitude as a primetime kickoff on national television – the Gators could come out flat.
The bottom line is that whether this game is played at 12-noon or midnight, the only way it works out for Tennessee is if it ends in Vol victory. And a noon start for the first time in a decade may just be the key to securing it. Because in case you were wondering, the last time the Vols and Gators played at noon was in 2003. Tennessee won 24-10.
Here’s to history repeating itself.