Blare 'Rocky Top' all you want. Get the orange-tinted glasses out and pour all the Kool-Aid. None of it is going to work on me.
I’m not buying into any argument about the Tennessee Vols having a chance to beat Florida in the Swamp Saturday.
Facebook has reminded me all week how my optimism has been crushed over and over. Whether it's memories of Checkered Neyland – a glorious sight wasted on a 10-9 loss to the Gators in 2014 – or posts like, “It’s only 90 minutes away. Time for Tennessee to drain the Swamp (posted in 2011, UT lost 33-23),” I’m constantly bombarded by Tennessee’s football failure.
And it seems like every year, I buy back in around this time and expect the Vols to beat the Gators. Then the game kicks off and I’m reminded that Florida should be paying taxes on its ownership of the Vols.
Even the staunchest UT supporters haven’t started the chatter this year. I guess losing to Georgia State will do that to a fan base. There may be some hope buried deep down, but most Vol faithful I’ve chatted with this week have the same mantra “hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.”
Why would they not? Just look at the last two trips the Vols had to Gainesville.
Sitting at breakfast with my dad this weekend, I was reminded of the heartache. He was in Gainesville in both 2015 and 2017, watching Florida win in the most agonizing ways for Vol fans.
In 2015, the Vols held a six-point lead and had Florida facing fourth-and-14 with just over a minute to play. The Gators were able to connect on a 63-yard TD pass on the play, with two Vols colliding while trying to make a tackle.
Two years later, overtime looked likely before Florida threw a 63-yard Hail Mary on the game’s final play.
The Gators are ranked in the top 10 coming into this game, while the Vols got off to their worst start in 31 years by losing their first two games. Nothing about this screams “upset alert.”
Tennessee has won just four times in this rivalry since the turn of the century, with one coming 15 years ago to the day of this publishing. Back then, I was a freshman in college watching James Wilhoit kick a 50-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired.
I’ll be shocked if I’m still watching this Saturday when the clock hits zero.