To players, the Florida vs. Tennessee game is one of the most important games of the season. The teams are perennial powers, and the winner of the game usually moves on to the SEC Championship game. Seven of the past 10 seasons, the winner has gone to the conference championship.
For students, however, it is more than a game. It is the highlight of the semester, a justification for class and student loans.
“Sometimes it almost feels like you’re playing for something bigger than just a game on Saturday,” said Sean Sims, junior in accounting. “Everybody is in their best mood on that Saturday. There is always more of a buzz than any other weekend.”
The rivalry between the two teams has heated up over the past decade and students love to demonstrate their hatred for the Gators.
“We’re going to get a blow-up gator and tie a leash around it and drag it in the streets all day long,” said Michelle Mast, freshman in exercise science.
The rivalry has grown over the past decade as the clash between the Vols and the Crimson Tide still remains important, but bragging rights belong to the winner Saturday.
“For the older generations, UT and Alabama was the biggest game. For the newer generation, probably because of Spurrier, it is now UT and Florida,” Sims said. “It dates back to Manning, who in Tennessee’s mind was like the greatest human on the planet. He never did something that Casey Clausen or Erik Ainge did and beat Florida, but he helped fuel the rivalry.”
Many students can remember the last time the Gators visited Knoxville in 2004, when Tennessee handed Florida a 30-28 defeat off the foot of kicker James Wilhoit. The victory put the Vols in the driver seat as they went on to win the SEC East — and brought one student to Knoxville.
“At the time I went to Tennessee Tech, but I decided to drive up and go to a game because I had never gone to one. It ended up being one of the best games I had ever seen, and it is one of the reasons why I wanted to transfer to Tennessee,” said Brandon Castro, a junior in accounting.
The game was one of the most thrilling in recent memory for Vol fans and has students talking about it in anticipation for this weekend’s match-up.
“The whole game was back and forth, standing up on your feet, knowing that at almost every second, something big could happen,” Sims said. “It went from total dismay to complete euphoria.”
Anticipation for Saturday’s upcoming game has been high, and it was shown when tickets went available on Sept. 7.
“People were a little angry about the long lines, but it was fun to hear everyone talk about the game,” said Marisa Katz, a freshman in graphic design.
Memories taken from a Florida vs. Tennessee game are about the experience leading up to the game. The waiting in line, the tailgating, the strain in your voice. This game would not be the rivalry it is without the excitement of the students who pass on the tradition to a new class every fall.
“I’m going to be nervous just like the players. I’m going to be ready to go. I’m going to put on my Orange Nation shirt and I’m going to be ready to go,” Castro said.