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Florida vs. Tennessee, Game Thread: Can the Gators go to 11?

Florida's got a chance to appear well ahead of schedule — and set the Vols back at the same time.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When I wrote Thursday that Florida's 10-game winning streak over Tennessee doesn't matter on the field as the Gators take on the Volunteers (3:30 p.m., CBS or CBS Sports online), more than a few folks seemed to miss the "on the field" part.

No, I don't think the streak will impact the play between kickoff and final whistle in The Swamp today. Austin Hardin's undisclosed injury, which forces Jorge Powell into the role of starting kicker, will matter more; so will whatever injuries Vernon Hargreaves III carries into this game, and whatever injury is preventing Tennessee's Pig Howard from playing for the Vols.

But the streak does matter because of what it says about Florida and Tennessee.

For the Vols, the Gators have been something of a final boss in September, or a first midterm that they have repeatedly failed. Tennessee used to be a national power; since 2005, when the Vols took the first loss of this streak, they've won 10 games once, and required wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky by a combined three points to do so in 2007.

Since 2005, Florida won two national titles, gone to two more Sugar Bowls, and, yes, fallen to the lowest lows the program has experienced since 1979.

But it also hasn't lost to Tennessee, and so the pecking order in the SEC East really hasn't changed: It's Georgia and Florida at the top in some order, with recent interloper Missouri in a band with South Carolina and Tennessee, and then Kentucky and Vanderbilt bring up the rear.

For Tenneseee to be great again, it's going to have to make the leap to that upper tier of the division. To make that leap, it's going to have to beat Florida, even a Florida team that might be bad and is certainly young and unproven under Jim McElwain. To beat Florida, it's going to have to overcome that streak, and The Swamp, and a Gators roster stocked with players who know nothing but beating the Vols.

So, yeah, this one matters. And we can hope Florida makes it matter more — makes it hurt — by going to 11, and relegating Tennessee in that rightful place behind the Gators for at least one more year, too.

Go Gators.