My man in the orange overalls with the Sunsphere behind Neyland Stadium tattoo knows what’s up — Tennessee will beat Florida by double digits this weekend. The game’s not going to be close and Will Muschamp will effectively be fired as Gators head coach by four eastern on Saturday. I know, I know, I promised I would never pick Tennessee to beat Florida again after the disastrous collapse of the Derek Dooley led Vols in 2012. You remember that game, right? Tennessee led late in the third quarter when Florida ran a simple wildcat play off tackle for 80 yards. That was the beginning of the end for Dooley. His Sal Sunseri led defense managed to give up 4,653 yards in the final twenty minutes of that game and the Gators won 37-20. I know that kind of offensive output sounds improbable, but Sal Sunseri is the only defensive coordinator in SEC history to give up a rushing touchdown on a kneel down play.
Back in 2012 I guaranteed a Vol win, told everyone to bet their mortgage on the outcome, and during the fourth quarter collapse a Tennessee fan Tweeted me that he hoped my wife got raped and my family died in a car accident driving back home to Nashville. So, yeah, the loss was on me. Notwithstanding that debacle I’ve already placed my bets for 2014, I got the Vols as a pick’em and I’d encourage all of you to do the same — this is my bet the mortgage pick guarantee. (If you already lost your house in 2012, you can win it back two years later!)
My rationale is simple: Florida is awful. Tennessee’s not awful. Which, to be honest, makes this the best Tennessee team since 2008. The not awful team will beat the awful team. Plus, when a string of losses ends, often it doesn’t end in a tight game. Remember when Tennessee crushed Alabama in 1995? That game was never close. The Vols won 41-14, ending a nine year losing streak, and embarking on a 10-2 run of domination in the series. I think the 2014 Florida game is a lot like the 1995 Alabama game for Tennesseee fans.
Now that I’ve written this, Jeff Driskel is going to inevitably come out and throw for 450 yards and eight touchdowns. I’m sorry. If Jeff Driskel got to play Tennessee every week, he’d be the number one draft pick.
The Vols are also checkerboarding Neyland. Which sounds outstanding until you realize that UT is expecting the 10th dumbest fan base in America to log on to the Internet, check their seat locations, and then correctly decide whether to wear orange or white. Have you been to Neyland Stadium before? One-third of Tennessee’s fan base doesn’t even know the Internet exists. (11 percent of the Tennessee fan base is on probation for alcohol related offenses). My 70 year old dad is one of these people that doesn’t know the Internet exists. If you told him he needed to log onto the Internet to see what color shirt to wear, he would ask my mom to do it for him. And then they’d both be squinting at their tickets — “Is that an N or an M? Let’s turn the lights on in here.” Boom, my parents turn on the halogen lamps from my college dorm room and it’s like staring into the sun in their house — and then they’d translate their uncertainty to the computer screen. They’d argue back and forth over which section was which color and I guarantee you either my brother-in-law or I would get a phone call asking how to maximize the size of the seat charts on the computer screen to be sure what color shirt my dad should wear. The end result would be my dad would get frustrated and just wear an orange and a white shirt.
I have a radical idea for Tennessee — if you want to make sure that people wear the right color shirt, why not put tshirts on the seats so no one can screw this up? Surely there’s some company that would sponsor this. It seems to work in every NBA arena during the playoffs. That way you don’t get old people fighting in the stands over someone showing up in the wrong shirt color.
Anyway, the Vols have lost nine consecutive games to the Gators, dating all the way back to James Wilhoit’s field goal as the clock expired in 2004. Most of these games have been bloodbaths. I know, I’ve been to four of them, two in Knoxville and two in Gainesville. I was in the Swamp in 2007 when the Vols lost 59-20. It was so hot in the blazing Florida sunshine that I went into the stadium having to pee and simply sweated out my urine. The night before this game I did a book signing at the Gainesville Wal Mart. Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve done a book signing at the Gainesville Wal Mart. The next year I was writing a book on the Vol season and watched UT get dominated 30-6. This was crushing as both a fan and an author. Because if you write a book about a crappy team’s crappy season, no one wants to read it. 2009 was Lane Kiffin’s only year in Knoxville and after talking trash all season somehow Kiffin escaped with just a ten point loss. In 2011 I also publicly guaranteed victory. I was there in Gainesville to see Justin Hunter tear his ACL on one of the first offensive plays of the game. In 2012, the Vols all got Suseri’d.
The only games on this list that were actually close were 2005 and 2006. In particular, the Vols should have won in 2006. Instead, the Gators came back from a double digit deficit in the fourth quarter on the road and went on to win the national title. Honestly, just reliving all these losses is difficult. Most of them were never close. The last seven wins have been by double digits. Hell, Florida only won four games last year, their starting quarterback got knocked out of the game with a broken leg, and the Gators still won by 14.
But that’s all in the past.
The streak ends in four days.
Bet your mortgage on the Vols, Tennessee wins by double digits.