GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Welcome to the latest installment of Inside the Numbers, a weekly column that breaks down the stats and numbers you need to know about Florida Gators football heading into gameday. This week, as the No. 24 Gators (0-1) prepare to host No. 23 Tennessee (2-0) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET to open SEC play, we take a closer look at Florida’s history in conference openers along with some specifics from the Florida-Tennessee rivalry.
The Gators may have seen their 11-game win streak against Tennessee come to an end last season with their 38-28 loss in Knoxville, Tenn., last season, but Florida has been dominant against Tennessee at home. Florida is 13-5 overall against Tennessee at home and has won the last six contests played at The Swamp. In those six games, Florida has outscored Tennessee by an average of 13.8 points, but the last two games of the series inside The Swamp have been decided by just 1 point each.
Saturday will mark the 24th time in the series in which both Florida and Tennessee are ranked, including the third time in the past six years. The Gators are 15-8 overall against the Volunteers when both teams are ranked and 6-4 when Florida is the lower-ranked team.
The last time Florida played Tennessee, the Gators blew a 21-point lead. The last time Florida had a three-touchdown lead on an opponent at any point in a game and ultimately lost was a 38-33 defeat to Miami on Sept. 6, 2003. Florida held a 33-10 lead over the Hurricanes with 6:10 left in the third quarter. Miami scored 28 unanswered points to win the game.
The Gators have won 12 consecutive SEC openers, dating back to 2005, with an average score margin of 29.9-to-15.5. Four games were decided by less than a touchdown, and eight of those conference-opening wins came against Tennessee.
With Florida canceling its home game against Northern Colorado last week due to the impending threat of Hurricane Irma, Florida’s SEC opener against Tennessee will also serve as its home opener for the 2017 season. This is the first time since 1992 — when the Gators opened their season with a 35-19 win over Kentucky — that Florida’s home opener doubled as its conference opener.
The Gators are a perfect 6-0 in home SEC games under third-year coach Jim McElwain. In 2015, Florida’s victories came on a last-second touchdown pass against Tennessee (28-27), an upset against then-No. 3 Ole Miss (38-10) and a nail-biter against Vanderbilt (9-7) that allowed the Gators to clinch the SEC East. Last season, the home conference wins came against Kentucky (45-7), Missouri (40-14) and South Carolina (20-7). Florida’s 2016 game against LSU was originally scheduled to be played in The Swamp, but was moved to Baton Rouge, La., when the game was rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew.
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