Florida football is now 1-1 after their rout of McNeese State in week two, and now begin conference play this week when they host the Tennessee Volunteers.
As the Gators get ready to welcome their long-time rivals into The Swamp, we start to realize that this game carries a little more significance than normal, especially on Florida’s side.
Florida has beaten Tennessee the last nine times that they’ve come down to Gainesville. If there’s only a short list of things that the Gators football program does, it beats Tennessee at home.
And in Billy Napier’s case, this may be the most important game of his coaching career.
Florida football: In need of a win over a rival
Let me start this off by re-stating the stance of both myself and all of us at HFH. We have full faith in what Billy Napier is doing, trust his vision, and believe that with a few more years of patience, he’ll have the Gators back where they belong.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way.
After last season where the Gators beat zero main rivals (Kentucky, Tennessee, UGA, FSU), Napier needs to take care of at least one of those if he doesn’t want there to be a lot of noise about his job security.
And it feels like Tennessee is the most important of those four I just listed.
As I said before, Tennessee doesn’t win in The Swamp. That just doesn’t happen. And it’s something that Billy Napier needs to prevent from happening this weekend.
The Vols will be ranked as the 11th-best team in the country. But they haven’t always looked like it.
Yes, they blew the doors off of Virginia. But their offense didn’t look as consistently explosive as it had been touted to be all summer.
Then against Austin Peay, the offense looked even worse. Joe Milton got up to 228 yards and two touchdowns, but he had a very rough first half against a lesser opponent.
There’s a weakness there, and I think Austin Armstrong could be able to find it.
So let’s go through both scenarios:
Florida football beats Tennessee, moves to 2-1
This would not only be a win over a top-15 team in the country, but it would set the Gators up to be 3-1 heading into Lexington, with a chance to stack some more wins up before they go to Jacksonville and play Georgia at the end of October.
A lot of the heat would be taken out from under Napier, and a sense of calm and normalcy would be back in Gainesville. We took care of the Vols at home, that’s what we do.
Florida football loses to Tennessee, drops to 1-2
This would take a lot of the wind out of the sails. Yeah, they could beat Charlotte next week. But there might not be a lot of fire when the Gators take on the Wildcats in week five.
Then some losses could snowball, and Napier goes another season potentially losing to both Tennessee and Kentucky. That’s something that doesn’t really fly at UF.
This is why I say the Tennessee game is the most important of Napier’s career. Not because of what it will bring him if he wins, but what could happen if he loses.