The remedy for a malady long felt by Tennessee football fans resides in Florida and will be on display for the nation to see.
For those that have long suffered from Battered Volunteer Syndrome (BVS), a win against the Gators should cure all for a few reasons. First, the Vols are better team with better coaching than Florida. Other than the game being played held in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, it’s hard to find a reason to pick Florida, which is roughly a touchdown underdog to Tennessee. Now, I’m aware we’ve had these conversations before.
There have been far too many times that Tennessee fans have thought – or simply wanted to believe – that the Vols were far better than the Gators and learned, rather harshly, that wasn’t the case. The 1990’s were the prime example of Tennessee’s fan base thinking too highly of the Vols. For the most part, those Florida teams were more talented. It wasn’t just former Gator coach Steve Spurrier that was the difference in that series. Florida led the Vols in talent and in coaching.
There have also been times in which Tennessee has looked like an easy favorite because Florida had been struggling all by themselves. So the argument was that the Gators were vulnerable. There was one problem with that throughout the late 2000’s and 2010’s. Tennessee was just as vulnerable in those “surefire” wins against the Gators as Florida was.
A win against Florida on Saturday would signify that Tennessee is not only a better program currently, as everyone from East Tennessee to Las Vegas believes. It would also signify that these Vols under coach Josh Heupel don’t choke in high-pressure games. Shouldn’t we already know that?
The South Carolina game in November 2022 was an aberration caused by an off-field incident that ruined the Vols’ season last year. However, that wasn’t a game that Tennessee just simply didn’t show up for. As for Georgia, the Bulldogs were just better. That’s why the Bulldogs won a national championship. Other than that, the Vols went to Pittsburgh and won, held on against Florida, beat Alabama for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth and hammered Clemson in the Orange Bowl when there wasn’t that much to play for. Under Heupel, the Vols show up – except last week.
If there’s one reason to think that BVS could show up in Gainesville, the Vols’ woeful performance against Austin Peay is it. However, Tennessee still exorcised some first half passing demons and won easily. It wasn’t pretty, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic.
There isn’t a Dooly, Butch or Pruitt in charge. For those suffering from BVS, it may be time to have some faith in Heupel. If the Vols can beat the Gators in Gainesville for the first time since 2003, Tennessee’s fan base should have a clean bill of health.
Prediction: Tennessee 38, Florida 21