Even though both teams are coming off losses, Tennessee-Florida was selected as the Southeastern Conference’s marquee game by CBS and gets the mid-afternoon national exposure. Upstart Auburn’s game at LSU, with both teams standing 3-0, seems more intriguing, but Vols-Gators it is — thanks in no small part to the South Carolina coach.
Because what Steve Spurrier helped create while he coached Florida, including a rivalry with Tennessee, resonates today in spite of itself.
The Vols have posted three straight losing seasons and have dropped eight straight to the Gators. Before posting an 11-2 record last year, the Gators had lost 11 games in the previous two seasons.
But Florida-Tennessee defined SEC football when its two-division era commenced in 1992. For the next decade, the Eastern Division revolved around those programs, coached by Spurrier and the Vols’ Phil Fulmer. This was the rivalry that inspired the Spurrier line, “You can’t spell Citrus without UT,” referring to the Vols’ lesser bowl invitations because they couldn’t beat Florida.
This was the rivalry of Peyton Manning and Danny Wuerffel, of Florida’s 1996 national title team and Tennessee’s 1998 championship squad. Like, then, the game is scheduled for September, and throughout the 1990s was an early-season can’t-miss encounter.
“It was a huge game,” Spurrier said. “I remember all of them.”
Does any stand out? Spurrier initially said no, then caught himself.
In 2000, Gators quarterback Jesse Palmer drove the team 91 yards in the final minutes, and threw a touchdown pass with Jabar Gaffney in the waning seconds. The ball was knocked from Gaffney, but after a conference on the field, the officials ruled Gaffney held the ball long enough for the touchdown.
“Their students were getting ready to storm the field,” Spurrier said. “They just stood there and looked at each other a while.”
Still getting in his digs at the Vols.
•Vanderbilt at Massachusetts, 11 a.m. on ESPNews:
Both teams have losing records but they’re miles apart. Vandy has lost to ranked Mississippi and South Carolina, UMass, coming off the blowout loss to Kansas State, fell to FCS Maine the previous week. The Minutemen are averaging seven points per game, last in FBS.
•North Texas at Georgia, 11:21 a.m. on KSMO (Ch. 62):
The Mean Green is sandwiched on Georgia’s schedule between Clemson and South Carolina in the first two weeks and LSU next week. The fear among Bulldogs faithful is their guys will be going through the motions. Even that should be enough, but Mark Richt thinks his guys will be motivated.
•Arkansas at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m. on ESPN:
Old-school football could break out. Both teams like to grind it out, and Rutgers may have to turn to reserve quarterback Chas Dodd because starter Gary Nova is battling a concussion. Arkansas hasn’t chosen a starting quarterback between Brandon Allen (injured shoulder) and A.J. Derby.
•Tennessee at Florida, 2:30 p.m. on CBS (Ch. 5):
Vols coach Butch Jones gets his first chance to change the direction of the series. The Gators have had an extra week to fix their turnover problem.
•SMU at Texas A, 6 p.m. on ESPNU:
Fourth straight home game for the Aggies, and the offense should hum against the Mustangs. This is also a chance for the A defense to gain confidence.
•Colorado State at Alabama, 6 p.m. on ESPN2:
Former Alabama assistant Jim McElwain, part of two national title teams, leads the Rams. That means Nick Saban could call off the dogs late.
•Troy at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports KC plus:
The Bulldogs have been playing good defense, and they’ll need it against a Troy team that knows how to beat the big boys.
•Auburn at LSU, 6:45 p.m. on ESPN:
It’s the 25th anniversary of the “Earthquake Game.” In 1988, LSU got a late touchdown pass for a 7-6 victory over Auburn that inspired a Tiger Stadium roar that according to legend registered as an earthquake on the school’s seismograph. If this one doesn’t go LSU’s way, the game will register on the quiet meter.
•Missouri at Indiana, 7 p.m. on Big Ten Network:
The Hoosiers picked up an encouraging 42-10 victory over Bowling Green last week, and they especially liked their defense, which did not surrender an offensive touchdown for the first time in 61 games. Missouri brings a more dangerous attack. While at Oklahoma, Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson has prepared offenses against Gary Pinkel defenses, including the Tigers’ victory over the Sooners in Columbia in 2010.
•Louisiana Tech at Kansas, 11 a.m. on Fox Sports 1:
The teams are similar. They’ve struggled on offense with spotty quarterback play. Tech’s Scotty Young completed nine of 28 passes last week in a loss to Tulane, while the Jayhawks’ Jake Heaps completed less than 50 percent in a loss at Rice. Both teams have been encouraged by defense. Tech is tied with Virginia Tech and Arkansas State atop the nation with 29 tackles for loss and is tied for second with 12 sacks.
•West Virginia vs. Maryland in Baltimore, 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU:
The Terps are expected to break out all-red uniforms for the game at M Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Ravens. The Mountaineers have won seven straight in this series, and if they’re going to extend the streak it will happen with a quarterback making his second start. Ford Childress carved up Georgia State for 359 yards last week.
•Louisiana-Monroe at Baylor, 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1:
Monroe, La., is the home of Duck Dynasty, and when these teams played last year in Monroe, a star of the show, Willie Robertson, stood on the Baylor sideline in a Bears’ jersey. Baylor has released a “Bear Dynasty” photo, putting Robert Griffin III, Art Briles, Nick Florence and Bryce Petty in long beards. This is Baylor’s most difficult nonconference opponent. Look for the Bears to win a high-scoring game.
•Texas State at Texas Tech, 6 p.m. on Fox Sports KC:
The Bobcats’ 2-0 record includes a victory over Southern Mississippi, but Tech is one of the nation’s surprise teams. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Baker Mayfield will continue to be the starting quarterback, even after Davis Webb came off the bench and sparked last week’s triumph over TCU.
•Kansas State at Texas, 7 p.m. on ABC (Ch. 9): In the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak against Texas, K-State averages a plus-2.6 turnover margin. Texas outgained the Wildcats in each of the games but K-State kick and punt returns have been a difference-maker, none bigger than the 2007 victory in Austin when the Wildcats returned a punt and kickoff for scores. Could we see Tyrone Swoopes for Texas? Mack Brown hasn’t ruled out playing the freshman quarterback.