Randy Smith: Vols Versus Gators; Still A Pivotal Contest

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

The Tennessee-Florida football game played in mid-September each fall, was always one of the top two or three games of the year in the SEC. In the 1990’s it was one of those two teams practically every year at the top of the SEC East standings. The Gators were national champs in 1996, while the Vols went 13-0 and won it all in 1998.

The Tennessee football team gradually fell upon hard times through the first decade of the twenty-first century, while the Gators under the guidance of Urban Meyer won a pair of BCS Crowns in 2006 and 2008. Now both teams are coming off losing seasons and no bowl games for the first time in years.

Volunteer fans clamored for a long, long time that playing a game as big as the Florida game early in the season was definitely a Big Orange disadvantage. They only had to point to the 2001 match-up as evidence. That year, the game was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina and rescheduled until the end of the year. The Vols won that one in the “Swamp”, and had they not stubbed their toes against LSU in the SEC Championship game, they would have played for a National Championship.

In looking at the Tennessee schedule for this season, one finds the game against Florida set for Oct. 4, at Neyland Stadium. Believe it or not, this game is still very important; only the stakes are different.

Both teams can forget about an SEC East title, at least for a year or so. Though both teams will be better than last year, the winner of this year’s game on Oct. 4, will very likely be going to a bowl game. Tennessee’s schedule is tougher than Florida’s but it is always tougher. As I scan the entire Vol schedule, I can see just five games that the Big Orange will be favored to win. (Utah State, Arkansas State, Chattanooga, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) They need six wins to be bowl eligible so they need at least one upset win to go bowling.

The Vols contest against the Gators comes after back-to-back road games against top ten teams. (Oklahoma and Georgia) Tennessee will probably be 2-2 when the Gators come to Knoxville and that would be a great time to snap Florida’s nine game winning streak. A tenth straight loss to the Gators doesn’t mean the Vols won’t go to a bowl game, but it will make it very difficult to finish 6-6.

Tennessee fans can take heart in the big turn-around made by the Auburn Tigers in 2013. First year head coach Gus Malzahn took a team with a losing record the year before to the BCS National Championship Game; a game that the Tigers were just a play or two away from winning. There is a lot of talent coming into the Tennessee program in 2014, but I don’t know if there is enough to have a turn-around like Auburn’s.

Simply by experience, the Vols should be better at quarterback and with the addition of highly-regarded Jalen Hurd at running back they should be considerably better on offense. Defense is still a big question mark and a lot of true freshmen will have to step up and play well quickly.

Coach Phillip Fulmer used to refer to his teams’ lack of success against the Gators, as being, “all puckered up.” That shouldn’t be the case anymore. Neither team has the swagger they once had; but it is still a very, very big game; puckered up or not.     

-----

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


Coleman Leads East Hamilton Past Sequoyah, 31-0

Jeffrey Coleman got East Hamilton’s offense off to a quick start and the Hurricanes’ defense smothered visiting Sequoyah in a 31-0 victory in the Region 3-4A opener for both schools on Friday night. Coleman turned a pass from Nick Woods into a 48-yard first-quarter touchdown and returned a punt 40 yards for another score in the second period for the Hurricanes (2-1, 1-0). Coleman ... (click for more)

UTC Football: Jacob Huesman's Unfinished Business

By seasons end, UTC senior quarterback Jacob Huesman will go down as the greatest Moc signal caller in the 108 year gridiron history of the program. An All-American in 2014, he has rings (SoCon titles), records and honors. Yet a few things are missing. He wants a national championship for his team and school and a win tonight against FCS Top 10 foe Jacksonville (Ala.) ... (click for more)

Trustee To Be Appointed To Oversee Hutcheson Medical Center Bankruptcy With Focus On Sale Of Fort Oglethorpe Hospital

A trustee will be appointed to oversee the bankruptcy case of Hutcheson Medical Center with a focus on getting the financially-strapped Fort Oglethorpe hospital sold. The U.S. Trustee's Office had filed a motion asking that the bankruptcy be dissolved due to the debt rising to $6.3 million since the bankruptcy was filed last November. However, all parties finally agreed it was ... (click for more)

Civic, Political Leader Mai Bell Hurley Dies At 87

Civic and political leader Mai Bell Hurley has died at age 87. She was the first woman to serve on the Chattanooga City Council. Ms. Hurley was also a longtime advocate for the arts and a leader in United Way. She was a leader in Chattanooga Venture that led to the redevelopment of downtown and the riverfront.  She most recently served on the Library Board. ... (click for more)

Does The Signal Mountain Town Council Take Its Constituents As Fools?

You've got to hand it to the Signal Mountain Town Council. In their scheme to change the zoning on Signal Mountain from 1/2 an acre to 1/4 an acre they get more creative by the day in coming up with justifications for doing something a majority of their constituents are squarely against.   They started off by hiding behind a poor widow who had fallen on hard times. She had ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Ain’t A Whirlygust

I have lived in and around the State of Tennessee my entire life and I have spent that last 50 years writing words in stories every day. I love clever words, words that fit perfectly in a sentence. I also like funny words, clever phrases and all sorts of “slang” words. This week the Slate website came out with “The United Slang of America” and, naturally, I was eager to see what ... (click for more)