If you asked an average college sports fan "How much difference is there between the Tennessee and Florida athletic programs?" they'd probably tell you the Gators are light years ahead right now. After all, the Orlando Sentinel today proclaimed
For the first time in major-college history -- by virtue of the Gators' 41-14 desert dismantling of Ohio State -- the same school now concurrently holds the football and basketball national titles ... One chomp, two champs.
By contrast, Tennessee just lost a bowl game named after a steakhouse and was put out of last year's basketball tournament by a team whose mascot is a bail of wheat. So the gap between the programs may seem more like a chasm widening with every smarmy Meyer comment and filling with Billy Donovan's hair gel. That is to say: impassable.
However, in many ways, the difference is much smaller. In fact, it's just two little numbers. The two littlest numbers: 1 & 2.
The record book will show that when Florida won its second national championship, the difference between the Gators and Ohio State was 27 points. The point difference between the Gators and Tennessee: one point. That one point makes UT and UF both thrillingly close and frustratingly far apart.
This century, Tennessee and Florida have each been to two SEC Championship games. The Gators won both of theirs, Tennessee couldn't manage even one. In the last ten years, Florida has won two national championships in football, the same number Tennessee has won in the last 55 years. Of course we know that the score over the last ten years is Florida 2, Tennessee 1.
On the other hand, in the Big Two sports of football and basketball, Florida has now won two championships in the last year. But the Gator's record against Tennessee in those two sports combined over the same span of time is only 1-2. The Vols proved they were better on the hardwood in the regular season last year, but the Gators got hot in March and won the NCAA. Tennessee couldn't get out of round 2.
Back to football, both schools are hot on the recruiting trail this year. Both are ranked in the top five of many recruiting service rankings. That will probably leave them ranked 1-2 in the SEC. Unfortunately, the Gators will come out ahead on that, too.
So it comes down to this: Is the difference between Tennessee and Florida vast, or is it the razor-thin margin by which the Gators scraped out of Neyland with a win this past September?
I'm a little afraid of the answer.