Ah, Tennessee. Tennessee. TENnessee. Ten, I see.
We all know it doesn't matter, right?
It, of course, is that 10-game winning streak the Florida Gators have over the Tennessee Volunteers, the thing that's on the line this weekend in Gainesville, as the Vols come to town to face a somewhat limited band of Gators.
It has been around longer than Tim Tebow has been a Gator, predates Barack Obama running for President and Florida's winning national championships in basketball, spans the entire tenures of a coach who won two national titles at Florida and a coach who delivered the Gators' worst season in four decades, and has both equaled Tennessee's own 10-0 stretch to begin the rivalry and erased the Vols' advantage in the overall series. (Florida's also up 19-6 since the rivalry became an annual matchup in 1990.)
For those of you watching from home this weekend, here's your playing card for Vols vs. Gators. pic.twitter.com/UZT9T59O8R— LNVF (@LoneNutVolFan) September 24, 2015
Tennessee fans have been scarred by this losing streak, sure. One might say that posting self-pitying rants and asking Florida fans to enjoy them seems like a logical low point, but then there was the profane chant while losing at home in a game in which Tennessee begged Lil Jon for assistance, played "Turn Down For What" on every defensive third down, and still ended up converting fewer third downs (and, you know, accounting for fewer points) than a team whose anemic offense was overseen by Will Muschamp, and quarterbacked by Jeff Driskel, until the point at which the latter finally became untenable.
And Tennessee's record of recent futility against Florida is so profound that it spans four coaches, two of whom got fired by the Vols. A third one promised a victory against Florida, was made to apologize for accusing Urban Meyer of skullduggery, committed more NCAA violations than Meyer did in his short span of time in Knoxville, turned a game that Tennessee never had a chance in into an unwatchable slog, and left the Vols, under cover of night, for a better job — all in a year's time.
The fourth one is Tennessee's current head coach. He is 1-17 against ranked teams in his career — and this year's Vols suffered their largest blown lead ever in Neyland Stadium in the process of taking that 17th loss.
But this streak means nothing, not really, for this year's matchup.
Florida and Tennessee will play on Saturday and people will talk about the streak, before and after the game, whether it survives or not. If Florida holds on to its grip on the rivalry, Butch Jones's seat probably gets a lot hotter; if Tennessee snaps its skid, suddenly Jones has a signature win, albeit over a Florida team that is more than a stone's throw from being ranked.
That's narrative, though. It's pomp and circumstance. It's sportz. (Miss you, Kyle.) It's controlled by what happens on the field, but has no bearing on what happens on the field.
The streak won't make Demarcus Robinson catch a touchdown pass, and it won't make Jalen Hurd fumble. The streak won't inspire Josh Dobbs to give Florida's defense fits, or push an Austin Hardin field goal wide. The streak probably won't even affect the decision-making of the coaches, probably the people in programs who are most cognizant of narratives on Saturdays, rather than being laser-focused on assignments and routes and rotations.
The streak is fun to talk about. I hope it continues. (It's nice to have two, even if we once had three.) But it doesn't matter from the moment when toe meets leather until the final 0:00 on Saturday.