What History Says About Vols’ Ability to Upset Florida

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    (Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics)

    When the betting lines opened up over the weekend, Tennessee opened up as a 12.5-point underdog to No. 9 Florida ahead of this Saturday’s match-up between the two SEC East rivals. Now, the Vols are listed as 14-point underdogs to the Gators just two days after the lines opened.

    That 14-point spread — which could continue to rise over the coming days — is the biggest spread in the Vols-Gators series since Tennessee was a 16.5-point underdog to Florida ahead of their 2013 contest. It also marks the fifth time in the last 11 years that UT has been a double-digit underdog to the Gators.

    How often have the Vols been able to pull off a big upset against the Gators? How often have they even been able to cover the spread against Florida?

    In data accumulated by the online betting site Odds Shark that dates back to the 1997 season, Tennessee has been the underdog to Florida 16 of the last 22 times the two teams have played. Of those 16 times the Vols have been an underdog, Tennessee has only been able to pull off the upset three times (1998, 2001, 2003). Interestingly, of the six times the Vols have been the favorites against Florida, they’ve only won twice (2004, 2016).

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    Since 1997, Tennessee has been a double-digit underdog to Florida five times not counting this season. In those previous five times, the Vols have pulled off the huge upset only once, and that came back in 2001. The annual rivalry was pushed back to the end of the regular season after the events of 9/11, and the Vols were 17.5-point underdogs to the Gators. Tennessee prevailed in a gritty back-and-forth contest, winning 34-32 to win the SEC East crown.

    Other than that game, the Vols have never been able to defeat Florida when entering the game as double-digit underdogs, but they’ve also never allowed the Gators to cover the spread in those match-ups, either.

    Two other times when facing a double-digit spread against the Gators, the Vols were able to cover the spread. Tennessee was a 30-point underdog in 2009, but Lane Kiffin’s squad were able to muck up that contest and held the Gators to just 23 points. The Vols lost 23-13 that game. In 2013, Florida was a 16.5-point favorite over the Vols in Gainesville, and they defeated UT by 14 points, 31-17. The other two times (2010, 2011) resulted in “pushes.”

    Over the last 22 meetings between the two teams, the Vols are just 8-10-4 against the spread and are just 5-17 overall vs. the Gators. Tennessee has covered the spread in two of the last three meetings, however.

    Here’s a full spread history of the Tennessee-Florida series according to the data from Odds Shark:

    • 1997 — Florida (-3.5), Gators won 33-20
    • 1998 — Florida (-2.5), Vols won 20-17
    • 1999 — Florida (-2), Gators won 23-21
    • 2000 — Florida (-4), Gators won 27-23
    • 2001 — Florida (-17.5), Vols won 34-32
    • 2002 — Tennessee (-5.5), Gators won 30-13
    • 2003 — Florida (-3), Vols won 24-10
    • 2004 — Tennessee (-3), Vols won 30-28
    • 2005 — Florida (-6.5), Gators won 16-7
    • 2006 — Florida (-4.5), Gators won 21-20
    • 2007 — Florida (-7), Gators won 59-20
    • 2008 — Florida (-7), Gators won 30-6
    • 2009 — Florida (-30), Gators won 23-13
    • 2010 — Florida (-14), Gators won 31-17
    • 2011 — Florida (-10), Gators won 33-23
    • 2012 — Tennessee (-3), Gators won 37-20
    • 2013 — Florida (-16.5), Gators won 31-17
    • 2014 — Tennessee (-1), Gators won 10-9
    • 2015 — Tennessee (-1), Gators won 28-27
    • 2016 — Tennessee (-5), Vols won 38-28
    • 2017 — Florida (-6.5), Gators won 26-20
    • 2018 — Florida (-4), Gators won 47-21

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.