How big is Saturday's showdown between the Gators and Vols? As big as it gets. Since the SEC spit into two divisions in 1992, Florida or Tennessee has won the Eastern Division 12 out of 15 years, including 10 straight years from 1992-2001. Sure, Georgia has had success in recent years, and traditional also-rans South Carolina and Kentucky are chomping at the bit to break through to the SEC Championship Game. But as always, the outcome of the Florida-Tennessee game will establish the favorite to make that trip to Atlanta.
Over the years, the UT-UF game has been an annual highlight in the early part of the college football season. There have been nailbiters, there have been blowouts. There have been career-defining performances by some of the best players in each program's history. There have been rainstorms, thrilling comebacks, big hits, questionable calls and everything else you'd want out of one of college football's great rivalries.
Here's a look back at some of the great moments in the UT-UF rivalry:
2001: Tennessee 34, Florida 32
In a game postponed until Dec. 1 because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the stakes have never been higher. Florida entered the game ranked second in the AP poll, Tennessee fifth. The winner would go to Atlanta to face LSU, and with an SEC title, earn a berth in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. On top of that, Rex Grossman was a Heisman Trophy favorite, and would likely win the award with a win over the Vols. It didn't quite work out.
Vol RB Travis Stephens ran roughshod over the Gators, with 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. Grossman did his part in a see-saw game, bringing Florida back from a two-touchdown deficit to take a 20-14 lead at the half. The lead changed hands three times in the second half. In the closing minutes, Rex Grossman led the Gators to a touchdown, but a potentially tying two-point conversion failed, and the Vols hung on for the win.
It was Tennessee's first victory in The Swamp since 1971, but their celebration was short-lived. The following week, the Vols were knocked off by LSU 31-20 in the Georgia Dome.
Honorable Mention: 1998 (UT 20. UF 17 OT), 1995 (UF 62, UT 37), 2003 (UT 30, UF 28)
1995: Danny Wuerffel
This was supposed to be Peyton Manning's coming-out party. It started out that way, with the Vols taking a 30-14 first-half lead. But Wuerffel led an offensive explosion with 48 straight points to win going away, 62-37. Danny finished with six touchdown passes as he stole the Sports Illustrated cover spot previously reserved for Manning. Florida went on to an undefeated regular season, winning the SEC title and a date against Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title. Tennessee went undefeated the rest of the way.
Honorable Mention: 2001: Travis Stephens (226 yds, 2 TDs), 1999: Alex Brown (5 sacks, 1 INT)
MOST CONTROVERSIAL PLAY
2000: "The Catch"
Like many games in this series, this one in Knoxville was going down to the wire. With the Vols up 23-20, Florida quarterback Jesse Palmer led the Gators on a desperate drive, culminating in a three-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney in the Tennessee end zone with 14 seconds left. But was it a catch? Gaffney grasped the ball momentarily, only to have it knocked out of his hands by a Vol defender. The covering official decided Gaffney held the ball long enough for a catch, and the touchdown gave Florida a 27-23 win. To this day, Tennessee fans insist it was not a catch.
Honorable Mention: 2004. A questionable personal foul call and referee clock error gives Tennessee the field position and time to kick a last-second field goal for the 30-28 win.