Tennessee is 4-0 for the first time since 2003 and gunning for an SEC East title after its win over Florida. The Vols have only beaten the Gators six times since the SEC expanded and split into East-West divisions.
As we try to project what this win over Florida could mean for the 2016 Vols, let’s look back in history to see what the previous five wins over Florida meant for the Tennessee season. Does it mean winning the SEC East?
1992 – #14 Tennessee 31, #4 Florida 14
Tennessee beat up on Spurrier and the Gators for the second straight time in Neyland Stadium. They called it “the downpour” as Heath Shuler, James Stewart and company routed Florida in a crazy rain. (A rain that became common between the two teams).
The Vols came out of the gate in the ’92 season with a 5-0 start. Then UT suffered three straight heart breaking losses vs Arkansas (25-24), Alabama (17-10) and at South Carolina (24-23). Those three losses, by a combined nine points, pushed Tennessee out of the Top 5 to the No. 23 team in the country. Four straight wins, including a Hall of Fame Bowl victory over Boston College, had the Vols finishing third in the brand new SEC East at 9-3.
1998 – #6 Tennessee 20, #2 Florida 17 (overtime)
“No. Sir-ee. No. Sir-ee.” is what, then Voice of the Vols, John Ward exclaimed as Florida missed its game-tying field goal attempt in overtime. Tennessee broke a five game losing streak to the Gators as coach Phil Fulmer got his first win over Spurrier.
The rest is history. The Vols go on to an undefeated season (13-0) and win the first ever BCS National Championship over Florida State 23-16. The Vols were on top of the college football world.
2001 – #5 Tennessee 34, at #2 Florida 32
Unlike most of the Tennessee-Florida matchups, this wasn’t played in September. The game was moved to December 1 after the attacks on September 11, 2001 pushed all college football games to that weekend to the end of the schedule.
Tennessee was 17.5 point underdogs coming into the game, even though each team had only one loss it its resume. UT tailback Travis Stephens had the game of his life, rushing for 226 yards and two TDs. The Vols were up eight late in the fourth quarter when Florida QB Rex Grossman orchestrated a TD drive, but the two point conversion attempt was denied by the Vols ending the game.
Tennessee lost in the SEC Championship Game, a week later, 31-20 to No. 21 LSU. The Vols would have played for the National Title against Miami if they had beaten the Tigers. UT (11-2) took its frustration out on Michigan in a 45-17 win in the Citrus Bowl.
2003 – #12 Tennessee 24, at #17 Florida 10
The Vols win for the second straight time in the Swamp with a great defensive performance holding the Gators to the least amount of points in the series since 1990.
Tennessee finished the regular season 10-2 with the two losses coming in back to back weeks at Auburn (28-21) and vs Georgia (41-14). The Vols won their last six regular season contests, beginning with the five overtime thriller at Alabama (51-43), to win a share of the SEC East crown. The season ended in disappointing fashion with a Peach Bowl loss to unranked Clemson 27-14. The Vols ended 10-3.
2004 – #13 Tennessee 30, #11 Florida 28
James Wilhoit nailed a 50 yard game-winning field goal to give the Tennessee its first back-to-back wins over Florida since 1970 & 1971. Wilhoit redeemed himself from missing an extra-point earlier in the game which would have tied it at 28.
The Vols won the SEC East with a 10-2 regular season record, including victories over rivals Georgia and Alabama. The problem? Auburn. Tennessee lost twice to the Tigers in 2004, once in the regular season (34-10) and again in the SEC Championship Game (38-28).
Tennessee bounced back in bowl season by drumming Texas A&M 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl, finishing 10-3.
2016 – #14 Tennessee 38, #19 Florida 28
Tennessee got the 11-year monkey off its back against the Gators in a 38-0 scoring streak on Saturday. What this will do for this team is still unknown. The win could propel the Vols into an SEC East Championship season like it has three times before (’98, ’01, ’04).
Or could it be like 1992 where Tennessee hits a rough patch in the schedule? The Vols schedule is tough for the next three weeks against Top 25 opponents: at No. 25 Georgia, at No. 9 Texas A&M and home vs No. 1 Alabama.
In the five previous seasons in which Tennessee beat Florida, the Vols have a 53-11 combined record and hasn’t lost more than three games in a season (bowl games included).
Are the 4-0 Vols destined to win the SEC East?