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Florida vs. Tennessee: History of the SEC rivalry between the Gators and Vols

From the Spurrier-Fulmer era to the Napier-Heupel era, we take a look at the history between these two SEC rivals

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) throws a pass during the game between the South Florida Bulls and the Florida Gators on September, 17 2022 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field in Gainesville, Fl. Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Florida Gators will travel to Rocky Top this Saturday to face the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols look to break a five-game winning streak for the Gators and keep their undefeated season alive, as Billy Napier looks to get a second ranked win after struggling offensively for the past two weeks.

This rivalry has a storied history that began in 1916, and we take a look back through the years of this matchup.

History of Florida vs. Tennessee

Total games played: 51
Record: Florida is 31-20
Last game: Florida won 38-14 in Gainesville in 2021

There was a time when this game was an absolute must-win for two powerhouses looking to end up in the SEC Championship or even go for a national title. This weekend, it will be two teams clawing their way back into relevancy, Florida’s fall from grace much shorter than Tennessee’s, but perhaps equally as painful for fans.

From 1985 to 2007, both of these teams were ranked every time they faced off, and often both in the Top 10. Both are ranked this year for the first time since 2012 and have a lot to prove.

It’s no longer the Phil Fulmer-Steve Spurrier era (where we got gems like Spurrier’s “can’t spell Citrus without U-T” after the Vols failed to make the Sugar Bowl), but this new era is full of promise — and the promise that this annual game can be something exciting and high-stakes again.

Let’s take a look at some of that history.

Biggest game in series history: 2001

It was the end of the 90s era of dominance for the two teams, and when they faced off in December of ‘01, Tennessee was No. 5 and Florida was No. 2. Despite Gators QB Rex Grossman’s best efforts, UT won in a thriller when he wasn’t able to find a receiver in the end zone on a two-point conversion to tie the game in its final moments, marking their first win in the Swamp since 1971.

Most important player in series history: Peyton Manning

The five-time NFL MVP is special to this series in a way that only Florida and Tennessee’s rivalry could be — despite his immensely successful career in both college and the pros, Manning never won a game against the Gators, an unfilled space that may have even cost him the Heisman Trophy.

His inability to finish the game also gave us one of many great Spurrier quotes: “I know why Peyton came back for his senior year. He wanted to be a three-time star of the Citrus Bowl.”

Odds for 2022

Spread: Tennessee -11
Total: Over/Under 63
Moneyline: Tennessee -360, Florida +295

Outlook for 2022 Game

Tennessee are coming in as two-score favorites. They’re at home. Josh Heupel has settled into his offense, recruited his guys, and built something that works in Knoxville.

But this is Florida. This has been a heartbreaker for UT more times than we can count, and while the Vols have what takes to win this, it won’t be as easy as the numbers make it out to be.