This coming Saturday the Florida Gators football team will look to continue another streak when the Tennessee Volunteers and Rocky Top come rolling into the Swamp. Since the arrival of Steve Spurrier, Florida and Tennessee have developed a rivalry that was annually a play-in game for the SEC Championship, and quickly became one of the best match ups in the country.
But recently that has not been the case.
Last week Florida extended their winning streak against Kentucky to 29-games, while that is impressive, Kentucky has not been a football super power. The streak I find just as impressive is the ten game winning streak the Gators currently have against the Vols. Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones is looking to restore the standard back to Tennessee football after to two pretty rough coaching hires. Tennessee will enter Saturday’s game confident but not focused on the streak.
When interviewed this week Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin insisted that Florida will not have a mental edge come Saturday.
“There’s no mental edge to it.” Reeves-Maybin said. “Every week is a new week.”
While the Vols take the ‘just another game’ approach Florida sophomore cornerback Quincy Wilson is well aware of the streak and wants to make it eleven in a row.
“They haven’t beaten us in ten years and we’re looking forward to keeping that going.”
Tennessee may not openly use the ten losses in a row as motivation, Florida running back Brandon Powell is well aware and thinks Florida can use it as motivation. “You don’t want to end it now, especially on our home turf so it’s something we’re looking forward to motivate us and come out this game with a ‘W’,” he said.
Whichever approach wins out on Saturday is yet to be seen, but the streak is alive and well. Both the Gators and the Volunteers are looking to break into the next tier amongst SEC powers and winning on Saturday will be another step towards accomplishing that. For Tennessee, losing to Florida would put them at 2-2 on the year with losses to their only legitimate competition. Vols fans will surely be disappointed because many predicted and expected more for them this season. For Florida, a win will be another stepping stone to restoring back Gator football, the Swamp, and their confidence.
Last year it looked like the streak would end at nine games, but a late Florida comeback shocked Rocky Top and extended the Gator win streak. Long-term winning streaks have a funny way of continuing, and often times the team on the losing side finds ways to keep it going. Whether Tennessee players will admit it or not, they will not be able to escape the conversation of Florida’s recent dominance over them. If Tennessee loses on Saturday you better believe Good Ole Rocky Top will be singing a slightly different tune. Butch Jones has done a great job bringing Tennessee under the watchful eye of the media, and Quincy Wilson doesn’t think it will amount to much come Saturday.
“Yeah, it’s a lot of hype. They are going to hype the game up to whatever they are trying to make it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we’re the Gators and we’re going to go out and play and come out on top.”
Mental approach goes a long way to winning football games on Saturdays. Some teams are great at avoiding distractions and story lines; some don’t shy away from it but use it as motivation. Each team is handling the past ten results differently and there is no set formula for how to deal with it. Florida winning ten in a row does not guarantee a victory on Saturday, but it will sure be nice to make it eleven and invite this same conversation next year.