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Tennessee's Intimidation By The Swamp

During the 1990's, the Florida-Tennessee was the game to watch every season. Usually, the winner of the September showdown would go on to represent the SEC East in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.

Florida and Tennessee never met annually until the Southeastern Conference was divided into the East and West in 1992. When Steve Spurrier returned to Gainesville as head coach in 1990, that's when the yearly rivalry was officially created. But Florida gained dominance over the Vols in the '90s when the Gators won five straight over Tennessee from 1993-1997. There were also great games that the Gators lost, but they were heartbreakers, and one of those games was my first-ever trip to The Swamp. But that loss was tough to swallow because one of them was Steve Spurrier's last game in Gainesville.

Going back years in the history of this rivalry, when it comes to Tennessee's lack of success in Gainesville, ever since 1953, the Vols have only won five times at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The last time that Tennessee won in The Swamp was on September 20, 2003, and I was in sixth grade. I also remember arguing with my mom if I could wear my Rex Grossman for my school picture. Ron Zook was in his second season as the Gators head coach, but Chris Leak was not officially the starting quarterback.

Since the last time Tennessee won in Gainesville, after losing in 1971 to the Vols, the Gators would win the next two before squaring off annually. Before becoming permanent rivals, the Gators would win 27-17 in 1977 and 17-10 in 1985 in Gainesville. If the Gators were not on probation in 1985, they would have won their first SEC Championship and played Miami in The Sugar Bowl. I have so many favorite Gators vs. Vols games that go back to the 90s, and you will be surprised by one of them.

1995: The first half was dominated by Tennessee, and they led 30-21 at halftime. Peyton Manning seemed like he was going to lead the Vols to victory, but the Gators had other ideas in the second half, and so did the weather. Florida would score 48 consecutive points to lead themselves to a 62-37 victory, and it would be Tennessee's worst defeat since 1893.

1997: Peyton Manning and the Vols came in expecting to end a four-year losing streak to Florida. They assumed that the defending National Champions had no Danny Wuerfell, Reidel Anothony, or Ike Hilliard, but they were wrong. The Gators still had Jaquez Green, and Tony George would set the tone with a pick-six for a touchdown, as Florida would knockoff the Vols 33-20.

1999: Tennessee came into The Swamp fresh off of a National Championship and snapped a five-year streak to the Gators. But Tennessee was not ready for the Gators defensive end, Alex Brown, who sacked Tee Martin five times this night. The Vols continued not to help themselves as they chose to only single block Alex Brown the rest of the night after getting Tee Martin killed in this game. Steve Spurrier said in 23-21 win that "This was a very frustrating game to coach" because he hated to kick field goals.

2001: I hate to disappoint my fellow Gator fans in this one, but this is a favorite of mine for good reason. I'm the only Gators fan in my family, and I live in Knoxville, but it was my first trip to The Swamp, and I'll never forget it. Florida was an 18-point favorite over Tennessee, and they were number 2 in the country, smelling roses coming into this game. Florida's defense was just kept off balance all night, and it turned out to be a high scoring, and the Gators had to kick a few field goals. Tennessee upset Florida 34-32 in The Swamp.

Florida and The Swamp have always known how to intimidate the Vols, especially going back to the 90s. Even when it seemed like Tennessee was the better team in recent years. On Saturday night, I hope that the loud and deafening sound of The Swamp that we know is at its best. This is the first hostile environment that Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton has started in, and he is not used to it. Milton is a Florida native, which gives him a purpose to lead the Vols to end the Gators home streak over Tennessee. A win Saturday night is a confidence boost that Gators and head coach Billy Napier need in hopes of at least getting bowl eligible because people were not high on the Gators coming into the season.

Prediction Florida 20 Tennessee 17

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