When the full story of the 2019 college football season is written, the truth may well be that the Tennessee Volunteers team that comes to The Swamp on Saturday will not be the worst of my lifetime.
But through three games, these Vols make a compelling case.
Home losses to Georgia State and BYU in dramatic fashion saddled Jeremy Pruitt’s bunch with their first 0-2 record since the late 1970s, and a lopsided win over Chattanooga didn’t do much to make things look better. The Vols are two-touchdown underdogs in their meeting with the Florida Gators in Gainesville on Saturday, and the spread is only probably that low because of Florida, which has struggled to wins over its only FBS foes thus far, not looking like a team that is ready to blow out anyone at this point.
And so this game — especially on the heels of another exciting, tense, and heated Florida-Kentucky game — feels like it’s low on the priority list for Florida fans at this moment.
The Gators’ 2019 schedule provides a couple of renewed rivalries for Florida, with games against Miami and Auburn stoking fires that burned hot long before Tennessee became an annual foe in the 1990s. Kentucky seems to have given Florida more of a challenge than Tennessee is projected to. Ancient rivals Georgia and Florida State are still probably most Gators’ No. 1 and No. 2 foes in some order. And then there’s LSU, which has catapulted itself on most Florida fans’ rivalry rankings of late.
If I’d listed the five most anticipated games of 2019 prior to the season, I don’t think there’s any question that Tennessee would have placed no better than sixth behind Auburn, FSU, Georgia, LSU, and Miami in some order; given the first two weeks of the year, I think Kentucky probably leaped the Vols, too. And this Saturday’s game being a nooner is sure to sap a lot of the vitality out of both the crowd in person and on Twitter.
So my question to you is this: Where does Tennessee sit among Florida’s rivals in 2019? And do you think the Vols are in a position to change that any time soon?