Tennessee lost their first game of the 2017 SEC season when they dropped their game against Florida 26-20 last Saturday. That loss puts the Vols in an early 0-1 hole in SEC play, and it gives Florida a tie-breaker over Tennessee should the two have the same SEC record by the end of the season.
This is far from the first time the Vols have started their SEC season 0-1 thanks to a loss against Florida. Since division play began in 1992, Tennessee is just 6-20 against the Gators counting this season’s loss. The Gators weren’t the Vols’ first SEC game in the 1993, 1994, 1995, or 2014 seasons, but the other 16 losses to Florida in that time have come during the Vols’ first SEC game of the season.
So just how likely is it that the Vols could bounce back and win the SEC East after losing to Florida? History says it’s not very likely.
In the 19 times the Vols have lost to Florida since 1992, only twice has Tennessee gone on to win the division crown. That happened in 1997 and in 2007. The Vols went 11-2 overall in 1997 and finished 7-1 in the SEC, and the 2007 squad went 10-4 overall and finished with a 6-2 conference record. In both of those seasons, Florida would go on to finish third in the East with a 5-3 record.
But those are the only two times the Vols have lost to Florida and gone on to win the East. That means it’s only happened two out of 19 times prior to this year. Which means the Vols have only gone on to win the East 10.5 percent of the time after they’ve lost to Florida since 1992.
Florida, meanwhile, has won the East 12 times since 1992 when they’ve defeated Tennessee. That means the Gators have won the division 63.2 percent of the time in the same season they’ve defeated the Vols since divisional play began.
In the 19 times the Vols have lost to Florida since 1992, their average finish in the division has been 3rd place, and their average record to finish the season has been 7.8 wins to 4.6 losses. And that means an 8-4 type season this year appears statistically likely.
Of the six times the Vols have defeated the Gators since 1992, they’ve gone on to win the division three times (1998, 2001, 2004). The exceptions to that were in 1992, 2003, and 2016.
It’s been a decade since the Vols last won the SEC East. And in that season, Tennessee started off their SEC schedule with a 59-20 beatdown at the hands of the Gators. It’s highly unlikely the Vols can still win the East this season based on history alone, and the nature of the East this year makes it unlikely as well.
But the Vols’ 2017 season is far from over. History may be against Tennessee ending up on top of the division, but it’s not impossible. Just don’t go to Vegas and bet your mortgage on it.