‘You Know What A Powder Keg Is?’ All Eyes On Tennessee-Florida

The years of torment for Tennessee fans having to sit through countless seasons of mediocrity, while the rest of college football has made fun of what’s going on in Knoxville, may finally be coming to an end.

One game will not define the Vols’ 2022 season, but a win could springboard this team into the month of October.

The reality is, this Florida game will be unlike any other for folks who are making the trek to campus on Saturday.

History of Bad Blood

It’s a game filled with vitriol. The hate that spews between both fan bases is a tradition that never seems to disappoint. With all the hatred comes results on the field. And for the past seventeen years, that hatred has worked in the Gators’ favor.

To the dismay of folks across Tennessee, the team from Gainesville has won the last 16 of 17 games against the Vols, even worse 19 of the last 24.

Some would think this would deter fans from being optimistic about the upcoming game on Saturday. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

For the first time, in a long time, Tennessee is a heavy favorite with a better team. It’s not often that fans in Knoxville can expect Vegas to be on their side, but this is what stands in front of Tennessee, as the Gators roll into town like a wounded animal.

Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium

I took a stroll around campus and the general feeling is that while fans will always keep their cup on — which is the rightful saying in Knoxville because it always seems like when things are going right, they take a swift kick to the groin — the excitement level is through the roof.

I’ve already seen ticket scalpers around the area, which is highly unusual for a Thursday night. “Man, these tickets are hard to come by, but I can sell you two for $400 a piece,” one gentleman said to me as I asked how much they were going for. I kindly told him I wasn’t interested, as he gave me the side eye while walking away.

The Pregame Atmosphere Will Be Full Blown Crazy

I know you hear this a lot around college football, but it will certainly be the case on Saturday. Party companies are setting up tents; pickup trucks full of alcohol unloaded; and the campus is preparing for over 150,000 people.

The last time I can think of a game with this much excitement was the 2015 Oklahoma matchup. You know, the game where Baker Mayfield crushed the souls of Tennessee fans in the fourth quarter…

I honestly think some fans might’ve needed an appointment with their ENT doctor after that one as the crowd reached levels of noise I don’t think I’ve heard ever since.

Taking a page out of the Tennessee baseball playbook, Athletic Director Danny White announced on Wednesday that there would be a watch party on campus, right outside the stadium. So imagine almost 102,000 people inside the stadium, with another 10-15 thousand people huddled around a massive screen right up the hill from Gate 15.

Tennessee Tailgate Area Via Trey Wallace

If it’s anything like what we saw for the baseball regionals, it will be a madhouse. Now, add on the gasoline that a good chunk of folks will be drinking and we’ve got ourselves a full-blown Woodstock about to go down. I imagine when Josh Heupel turns toward Gate 21 on the Vol Walk, his stomach will be churning in excitement.

The Stadium Will Be Rocking, So Don’t Come Knocking

I’ve been to numerous games inside Neyland Stadium. The 2004 Florida game and the 2015 Oklahoma games stood out as the loudest. And yes, I know that the ending to the 1998 Arkansas game was surely bonkers. However, I’ve only seen Youtube clips, as I was way too young to remember. Folks around the country won’t understand how loud it will get unless they turn the television volume up to max.

Here is former Tennessee basketball star Admiral Schofield describing the Oklahoma environment in 2015, quoting former Oklahoma players

Years of disappointing endings and ugly football have led to this game being one of the biggest in recent memory. There’s not much you can say, though I know a good portion of the media will still like to crap on Tennessee fans for the Ole Miss game in 2021.

Just think of that atmosphere and energy, but fans actually holding onto their water bottles, golf balls and mustard containers. I’ve sat through countless games in the press box while watching fans leave the stadium early because their team was getting blown out.

“You know what a powder keg is? Well, that’s exactly what Neyland Stadium currently is at the moment. We’re just waiting to explode, but in a good way,” a Tennessee fan ‘Jeff’ told me Thursday evening.

He wasn’t done, as Jeff brought up his past experiences of being letdown.

“Imagine having to sit through some of these games over the past ten years and still coming back for more. We’re ready. It’s been a long time since folks have taken our team seriously. So hopefully, ole Josh (Heupel) can keep this thing going. I just need a win, man.”

It’s Time For Tennessee To Take The Next Step

The time has come for the Vols to take the next step. After years of close calls and disappointment, the time has come for Tennessee to cash in. Nothing short of a victory on Saturday will do this season justice. It’s set up perfectly for Josh Heupel and his team to be 4-0 when they head to Baton Rouge in two weeks.

By the time Garth Brooks comes over the loudspeakers during the third quarter break, this game could be out of reach for the Gators, but nothing would surprise me. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often, with the chance for Tennessee to be a top-10 team once the new polls come out on Sunday.

The fan base is starving for a win like this, but also the football program could use another jolt to the arm. This program has been through constant drama, so now is the time to at least silence the critics for at least the next two weeks.

No, a win over Florida won’t mean ‘The Vols are back”, but it will sure help raise the expectations of the program, in Josh Heupel’s 17th game at the helm.

Get ready, it’s about to get crazy in Knoxville.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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