9. At Florida Gators
The only thing more painful than ignoring the Alabama Crimson Tide game because it’s an automatic loss is ignoring the Florida Gators for the same reason. But Tennessee football almost has no chance in that game this year.
Despite Jeremy Pruitt and Dan Mullen both being in their second seasons, Mullen inherited a better situation at Florida, has a more proven track record, dominated the Vols last year on the road and has this one at home, and also runs a system designed for a program to take off in its second season. All of those things heavily favor UF this year.
As always, this is the Vols’ first conference game, and it is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21. UT hopes to be 3-0 by that point, but even with that confidence, they are going to have to write this game off as a loss.
That has not been the case for previous seasons. At least dating back to 2011, Vol fans have felt they had a chance against Florida every year despite the Gators winning seven of those eight games since then. It’s safe to say any decent coaching would have resulted in four straight wins for UT in the series from 2014 to 2017.
But this is a different year. The Vols are still rebuilding, and Florida is in prime position to take off under Mullen. That this game is in Gainesville in September only furthers the proof of this being an automatic loss. As a result, this game is not a necessary one for Rocky Top in 2019 to reach its goals. Pruitt has other things to worry about first.