Tennessee fans know the UT-Florida game in Knoxville this September is a massive one for Butch Jones and the entire program.
But could it have the highest stakes of any college football game in 2016?
A couple writers at ESPN think that could be the case as Chris Low and Adam Rittenberg put UT’s Sept. 24th showdown against the Gators No. 1 on their list of college football games with the highest stakes in 2016.
Here’s their rationale, via ESPN.com
“All Jim McElwain did in his first season at Florida, despite some serious shortcomings on offense, was go out and win the SEC’s Eastern Division championship. And, yes, that means Florida beat Tennessee for the 11th straight time. The Vols last beat the Gators four head coaches ago in a rivalry that hasn’t been much of one for the past decade.
“Butch Jones has been steadily building back Tennessee’s program, and his roster certainly looks the part with returning playmakers and experience. But the reality is that Florida has found a way to win this game over the years, and Tennessee has found a way to lose it. If the Vols don’t change that trend this season in Knoxville, there will be massive avalanche on Rocky Top.”
That’s certainly a compelling argument. With so much hype around UT, and the questions about the Vols’ ability to finish off big games (especially against Florida), a loss to the Gators could be catastrophic for the Vols’ hopes of winning any kind of title in 2016.
But on the other hand, there are three big games after the Florida game for UT, so the season could quickly turn in either direction, regardless of the outcome of that one.