1. Florida Gators
Yes, the Florida Gators remain the most important game on the schedule for Tennessee football. In regular years, you expect that to be the case because it’s a game to win the SEC East. This year, though, they’re on an even playing field as middle of the pack SEC East teams.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this post, there are surefire wins and losses and toss-up games that lean one way or the other. Right now, the Vols have three surefire wins, three surefire losses plus one highly probably loss, two toss-up games that lean toward losses and two toss-up games that lead toward wins.
Altogether, that’s 5-6 so far with a chance to be as good as 7-4 or as bad as 3-8. And, with West Virginia, there’s a major outside chance at 8-3. However, assuming the range is accurate, that makes this game crucial. If everything goes as predicted, it determines if the Vols make a bowl game. If things go better than predicted, it’s just an added bonus to the season.
But what’s clear is this is the one game on the schedule that’s a true toss-up. Regardless of what anybody says, Tennessee football has as much a chance to beat Florida as the other way around. It made no sense for the Vols to be picked sixth and the Gators to be picked third in the East. Both teams only had four wins last year.
On top of that, they both have new head coaches installing new systems on both sides of the ball. As complex as the 3-4 system is in its first year, going to the spread is also difficult, which Dan Mullen is doing with the Gators.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that the Vols lost last year to Florida in The Swamp on a Hail Mary play after a full game of horrendous coaching and that this game is at home. Simply put, this is a complete toss-up.
So by that logic, it’s far and away the most important game of the season for Tennessee football. If things go as planned, the Vols will be 2-1 heading into this game. They have a surefire three-game losing streak on the horizon after this game. As a result, they have to win.
Add in the fact that Florida is the biggest and most hated rival for Vols fans, and this is clearly the most important game of the year. So it may be a rebuilding season on Rocky Top, but nothing has changed. Florida is the game that fans need to circle, and it’s going to be the one to set the stage for the rest of the season. Therefore, it’s the most important game of the year for Tennessee football.