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



Hixson, East Ridge Post Soccer Wins

The Hixson girls soccer team scored four second half goals Monday night in their 6-0 win over Tyner.  Morgan Dupree had three saves and one assist.   Sarah Bargerstock, Emily Darr and Mollie Bishop each had a goal.  Sydney Rigler had four saves for Hixson.  Hixson travels to Red Bank on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. match.   Also on Monday, East ... (click for more)

Cleveland State Volleyball Takes Down Covenant

The Cleveland State women's volleyball team took down Covenant College on Monday, with a final score of 25-20, 25-18, 25-21. The Lady Cougars now move to 7-3 on the season with another home matchup against Bryan College coming on Wednesday. Head Coach Randy Evans commented on his team's performance and said, "The competition is getting better the deeper we move into the ... (click for more)

Judge Cuts Bond To $50,000 For Man Charged In Fatal Woodmore Bus Wreck

Criminal Court Judge Don Poole has reduced the bond for the school bus driver charged in the wreck that killed six Woodmore Elementary students. Judge Poole, in a written opinion, cut the bond to $50,000 for Johnthony Walker. He said if he makes the bond, he will need to be under GPS monitoring. Walker will not be allowed to drive. Judge Poole said Walker has ... (click for more)

State To Retry Smart On North Chattanooga Rape Charge; Bond Conditions Lifted

The state plans to retry the case in which a 17-year-old was charged with raping a 69-year-old jogger in North Chattanooga three years ago. Judge Don Poole on Aug. 25 had declared a mistrial after a jury said it was deadlocked. Diontae Smartt, who was charged with aggravated rape, was already free on bond. Judge Poole has now lifted bond conditions, including being electronically ... (click for more)

Tired Of Property Tax Increases

Why is it every time the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County want to raise money they have to punish the homeowners?  I'm sick of the few paying for the many.   If you want to be fair, I would not complain on a 1/2 cent local sales tax raise since everyone would have to contribute their fair share.  Or how about a wheel tax which would get everyone who owns ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Third Son Takes His Life

Steven Ferrin, described by his parents as “a handsome, bubbly and witty young man,” was the victim of what is called “a sectarian attack” in recent weeks near his home in north Belfast (Ireland) and last weekend was found dead after the 31-year-old father of a 7-year-old girl had taken his own life. Compounding the tragedy is the horrific news that Steven’s other two brothers and ... (click for more)