The programs at Florida and Tennessee right now mirror each other in a number of ways.
Both are looking to break back through in the Eastern Division, and both need a signature win in the worst way.
They’ll get their chance this Saturday.
Derek Dooley is 0-10 against nationally ranked opponents at Tennessee, and Will Muschamp is 0-5 against nationally ranked foes at Florida.
The No. 23 Vols have lost 11 straight and 17 of their past 18 to ranked teams. Their last win over a ranked opponent was 31-13 against No. 21 South Carolina in 2009.
The No. 18 Gators have lost nine straight to ranked teams. Their last win over a ranked opponent was 51-24 over No. 4 Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2009 season.
Saturday’s game in Knoxville marks the first time both teams have been ranked since 2007. The No. 5 Gators routed the No. 22 Vols 59-20 that day in Gainesville.
Tennessee’s appearance in the Top 25 this week marks the first time the Vols have been ranked since the opening week of the 2008 season.
Florida has won seven in a row over Tennessee. Even during the Vols’ dizzying run in the 1990s, which produced back-to-back SEC championships in 1997 and 1998, the Gators have dominated this series. The two teams have played 20 times since the SEC’s divisional split in 1992, and Florida owns a 15-5 record during that span.
The Vols’ players don’t seem too concerned about the past.
“I think people want to wait and see how we do against Florida, but I’m here to tell them that we’re going to beat them,” Tennessee defensive end Darrington Sentimore said.
The truth is that this rivalry needed a little spice, and it's been a while since it really meant something.
Maybe that all changes on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.