It’s the Third Saturday of September, football fans! The vaunted Vols are hosting the gritty Gators in K-town, a city prestigious enough to host the World’s Fair in 1982! Saturday plans across the country have been made for or around this game! It is not to be missed! Here’s another exclamation mark just to show you just how exciting this is! Right? Right?!!!
I wish it were so, but the 2010 edition of this rivalry game is about as attractive as Greg Oden’s junk hanging out of Lady Gaga’s meat dress for the casual college football fan. Every rivalry takes a dive like this from time to time when one or both of the teams are slipping. This year, the Vols are coming in off a humiliating loss to a Pac-10 team at home. While the 2009 Vols entered this game in similar fashion (an inexcusable loss at home to a terrible UCLA team), lil’ Kiffycakes, who suffers from bigmouthtinypenisitis, gave the game the some flair with his carnival sideshow antics.
The Gators, while still ranked in the top 10 and carrying a very talented roster, have managed to become the only team in CFB history to fall more than four positions since the inception of the AP poll after starting the year 2-0 by starting at #4 and landing at #10 this week. Most Gator fans will not argue with these results as the team has appeared undisciplined, lazy, and confused: three adjectives never used to describe the team as a whole since UM took the reigns from Zooker (a time when those three adjectives were widely used to describe the team).
Now that you are considering a trip with the wife (or husband for those two or three sexy women who read the BM blog) to Macy’s on Saturday afternoon to shop for a new duvet cover that matches your furniture and paint scheme, let’s go over a few reasons why this game is still special and deserves your full attention.
1. The first half of what turned into the Annihilation at Neyland was quite competitive last week. Tennessee, while severely out-talented by the Ducks, rode a heavy wave of emotion and excitement into the game and actually looked pretty good in the first half. What that means is Dooley is reaching his team. It is not clear what he’s reaching them with, but they were at least pumped and up for the challenge of big underdog on their own turf. A Gator team with some serious deficiencies on and off the field is certainly being painted as primed for an upset. Inside the locker room, Dooley must be billing this game as a chance for these players to shock the world and bring Tennessee football back.
2. Tennessee fans are not gluttons for disappointment. They overdose on Vol success with wild delusions of Heisman trophies for Peyton Manning and turn on their coaches and mothers like a Hatfield does a McCoy when suffering a loss. But for at least the first few moments of a game like this, most of the 106,000 fans wearing community-service orange won’t be feeling any pain and living only in the moment of complete obliteration from six or so hours of consuming Uncle Cleetus’s moonshine and Auntie Jo Jo’s whiskey before the game. That can make it really difficult on a new QB making his first road start in the SEC. Despite the Vol recession the past couple years (yes, it’s only been 2 years… UT was in the 2007 SEC championship game!), it’s still one of the largest and loudest places to play.
3. Pride is at stake for the Gators, especially the coaching staff. Doubts are abound, the Gator nation is feeling insecure, and we can’t stop thinking about the first 6 quarters of the 2010 season. A challenge has been set for this team. UM traditionally leads his teams to and through such challenges.
4. Even when the national attention may look to other games, rivalries still hold their intensity for fans, especially on the road. Knoxville and Neyland is the true road experience. UT fans can be close to congenial and they can be quite brutal. After several years of getting a win at this venue, this Gator fan, fueled by pregame, a handy flask and a heart-breaking loss featuring the D Bake head slap and a timeless punt (start the damn game clock!) , almost became a statistic in 2004. Only because the wife was virtually carrying me like an insolent two-year old from the ruthless and piercing taunts through the bowels of the stadium, did I make it back to the car alive. It may seem silly, but we put a lot of pride in the hands and heads of 18-22 year-old college students. When that pride has been crushed on the field, it usually carries over into the tailgate. But that’s why we like it so much!
5. This game has featured 15 of the 18 representatives of the East in the SEC Championship Game. A win in this game means a lot towards a big seasonal goal. Maybe this year does not pit two highly ranked teams looking to trade blows, but getting an early win in the SEC is crucial. All possibilities are still on the table when a team is 1-0. And nothing is guaranteed from either one of these teams from the first two weeks.
It’s Thursday, and I’m already on the edge of my seat. The SEC begins for the Gators and Vols. Is it too early for a sip?