With most teams still playing non-conference opponents, Week 3 of the 2012 college football season is another light slate of games. However, there are a few must-watch games, including the Florida-Tennessee matchup. This rivalry was one of the best in the SEC in the 1990s and early 2000s, however, both teams have slipped in performance and this game hasn't meant as much. Could 2012 be the start of this rivalry reclaiming its spot as one of the most important in college football?
Is the Florida-Tennessee Rivalry Nationally Relevant Once Again?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The answer is no. The only reason this game has taken on additional prominence is because Arkansas couldn’t stop Kolton Browning and Louisiana-Monroe last week. There was a time when Florida-Tennessee determined the SEC East champion and a potential BCS team. Despite strides by both teams in the first two weeks of the season, I can’t imagine this matchup will do anything more than determine a participant in the Outback Bowl or Chick-fil-A Bowl. This won’t even be the most nationally relevant game in the SEC East this season (that belongs to South Carolina-Georgia), never mind the rest of the league or the rest of the country.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This rivalry is starting to regain some of its intrigue that the SEC experienced in the 1990s, but I’m not ready to say it is nationally relevant. There’s not many marquee games this week, so it definitely helps the rivalry to be on a stage with little competition from the rest of the top 25. Both teams are off to a solid start, but neither appears to have what it takes (so far) to beat out Georgia or South Carolina for the East title. For this rivalry to reclaim its spot as one of the best in the SEC, both teams need to be ranked a little higher and come into the season with higher expectations. While Florida and Tennessee each have a solid win this season and this is a key game for SEC East positioning, this rivalry would become more nationally relevant if both teams can sustain its success, rather than struggling to crack the top 25 or seven wins each year.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
It’s definitely relevant this season, but it’s a bit premature to make the claim that this series will once again take on national significance on an annual basis. Both teams are off to a solid start, but there is no guarantee that Tennessee and/or Florida will return to elite status this season or any time soon. There is some positive momentum with each program, but it’s quite possible that these are still the third and fourth best teams in the East behind Georgia and South Carolina.
It's funny how quickly things change, isn't it? About a month ago if you had asked this question I am pretty sure you would have gotten different answers than now. That said, it certainly helps that both teams are 2-0 and each have already scored impressive victories of their own headed into Saturday's "showdown" in Knoxville, Tenn. However, this is the first time since 2007 both teams will be ranked when they play each other, and perhaps even more telling, it's still not CBS' national SEC Game of the Week on Saturday. That distinction belongs to Alabama at Arkansas. That alone speaks volumes to me about the current national perception of this rivalry. It will always be an important game to fans of each school and the SEC East division race, but it's just not where it used to be, not yet. Considering both teams' recent struggles and the uncertainty surrounding them headed into this season, I would go so far as to say both coaching staffs and fan bases are just happy we are even asking this question.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The annual Vols-Gators game is becoming a big deal once again, although each program must get back in the top ten for this mid-September clash to have its former “Game of the Year” feel from the 1990s. Both teams have gone through a major transition over the last two seasons, with regime changes affecting their win-loss record significantly. Florida lost 11 games between Urban Meyer’s final season and Will Muschamp’s debut last year, while Tennessee dropped a school-record 14 contests in Derek Dooley’s first two years while he tried to repair a program severely depleted by the end of the Fulmer era and a mostly-wasted recruiting class with Lane Kiffin. By contrast, both the Vols and Gators lost only 23 times each in the decade from 1992-2001 when this game was must-see TV. However with both teams ranked and ESPN’s Gameday on the way to Rocky Top, this year’s battle is rekindling the classic SEC East rivalry.
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