It’s been a long, long time since the Vols have found a way to win on the road against the Florida Gators. The last time Tennessee defeated Florida in Gainesville was back in 2003. The oldest players on the Vols’ roster, the small collection of redshirt seniors such as Kendal Vickers and Brett Kendrick, were only eight-years-old the last time the Vols left the Swamp victorious.
Tennessee ended a streak last season when they defeated Florida 38-28 in Knoxville to put to rest the Gators’ 11-game winning streak over the Vols. Now the 2017 squad will look to end another streak: a six-game losing streak in the Swamp.
The Vols haven’t had much to smile about when they visit Gainesville over the last decade, nor have they had much success there ever since the SEC split into divisions and the two teams have played annually.
In fact, the Florida series as a whole has been fairly one-sided since the division split in 1992. And we have some numbers that tell an interesting story about the Florida series.
Not Really Streaking
If the Vols win this Saturday against Florida, it will mark only the second time in the series history since 1992 that Tennessee has earned at least a two-game winning streak over the Gators. The only other time the Vols had a winning streak against the Gators since the division split was when they won back-to-back games in 2003 and 2004.
Meanwhile, Florida has had winning streaks three times against the Vols in the series since 1992. They won five straight from 1993-97, two straight in 1999 and 2000, and, of course, 11 straight from 2005-15.
It’s also worth noting that the Vols have only won twice in Gainesville since 1992. They won in 2001 and 2003, and both times they were led by Casey Clausen at quarterback. But aside from those two victories, the Vols have lost every other game they’ve played in the Swamp since the division split. Florida is 10-2 against the Vols in Gainesville during that stretch.
Not Even Close
When the Vols play in the Swamp over the last two decades, their offense has a tendency to be, well, offensive.
In the 12 games the Vols have played in the Swamp since 1992, they’ve managed to score 30 or more points just three times. And the Vols are just 1-2 in those games, winning in 2001 but losing in 1995 and 1993. (As a side note, the Vols’ 38 points they scored against the Gators last season was the most they had ever scored against Florida since they dropped 45 points on them in 1990.)
Not only has Tennessee’s offense struggled mightily in the Swamp, but the defense has too. Florida has scored 30 or more points seven of the 12 times the two teams have played in Gainesville, including a 62-37 beat down in 1995.
The average score of the game when it takes place in Gainesville is 32.6 to 23 in favor of the Gators. Only three times (2015, 1999, 1993) has the game been decided by just one score when the Gators have won since 1992.
When these two teams would meet in the 1990s and early 2000s, both teams were almost always ranked and were very often ranked inside the top 15 or top 10. Lately, however, it’s been rare to see both teams ranked when they take the field.
Tennessee is ranked No. 23 by the AP Poll and Florida is ranked No. 24. This marks only the fourth time in the last decade that both teams have been ranked when they’ve met. The other occasions were in 2007, 2012, and 2016. Neither team was ranked in their match-ups in 2014 and 2015
This year also marks the second straight year the Vols will enter the contest as the higher ranked team. Tennessee got the win last year, but that was an outlier according to the data.
The Vols have been ranked higher than Florida in their annual match-up seven times since 1992 counting this season. And Tennessee is just 2-4 in the previous six games, winning last year and in 2003 but losing contests in 2002, 1999, 1996, and 1993.
Rushing to Victory
The big stat that’s always thrown around in the Florida-Tennessee game is that the team who runs the ball the best wins the game. And for the most part, that’s been true.
When Florida piled up their 11-game win streak over the Vols, they rushed for more yards in 10 of the 11 games they won. The only contest in which they ran for fewer yards and still won was in 2015 when the Vols out-gained them 254 to 109 on the ground.
Last year, the Vols kept the trend going by out-gaining Florida 179 to 106 in rushing yards and earning the victory.
So How do the Vols Win?
If the data holds true, the Vols are going to need to out rush the Gators and find a way to hold their offense to a fairly low point total. Florida’s offense looked anemic against Michigan, but the Vols’ defense hasn’t exactly looked stellar this year.
A win in Gainesville would be a first in nearly a decade and a half for the Vols. And not only would that be a rare feat, but the winning streak that would come with it would be as well.
The Vols have their work cut out for them this weekend, but a win would be a big step for a young team hoping to defy expectations this season.