Look, I know the Vols haven't beaten the Gators since Dodgeball had us throwing wrenches at each other for fun. I know that the royal blue and orange skipping onto the field triggers some sort of mental disadvantage in all of us. I know I've probably picked the Vols to win for the past four years in a row and lost my mind, heart, and continence each and every single time.
But this is a series about why Tennessee should or could win every game this season, and so I'm not going to cower to the curse. I'm giving it the bird. Without any further adieu or additional medication, here are three reasons the Vols should beat the hated Gators in 2015.
1. New coaches, early in the turnaround. I have this loop of Vols hype videos playing in the store, and one of them begins with former Gators coach Will Muschamp gesturing to a Neyland Stadium crowd and gloating to a post-game TV crew, "It's great to see all these folks getting disappointed. I love it!" I don't know what he said when his employer finally got so disappointed in him several games later that they ran him off, but I'm guessing it wasn't that. Anyway . . . as they tend to do in coaching transitions, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme in Gainesville, and the Gators have replaced defensive-minded Muschamp with Jim McElwain, who is audacious enough to believe that scoring is important. McElwain served as Alabama's offensive coordinator for several years and produced what were the three most prolific offenses in Alabama history at the time. So let's just conclude that he's good at offense.
Still, a new coaching staff is a new coaching staff, and the Gators meet the Vols in only the fourth game of the season. Sure, McElwain got things rolling immediately in Tuscaloosa, but that was a plug-and-play gig. The system was already humming, and all he had to do was not screw anything up and not accidentally squish Nick Saban. He did have success at his latest stop for Colorado State, too, but that one took a season to get up to speed. McElwain was a good hire for Florida, but there is a window of opportunity for the Vols to get over the psychological hurdle while the Gators program is still getting used to an entirely new staff.
2. An offense with question marks. Just to underscore that the Florida gig is more like Colorado State than Alabama for McElwain, consider this: The Gators return only four starters on offense. The most glaring vacancy is at quarterback, where Jeff Driskel does not return, but not because he's graduated or gone to the NFL. No, he's gone to Louisiana Tech. So did he get beat out by someone better, take his ball and go home? Not exactly. Treon Harris took over for Driskel midway through the season last year, but he finished only 3-2 as the starter. Skyler Mornhinweg -- the only other returning quarterback -- is hilariously listed as a "depth guy" by the Gators' official site, or at least he was when I was putting this year's annual together. They do have someone named Will Grier, but he has zero college experience, and we know all too well how that story usually ends. So do Derek Barnett and the Tennessee defensive line.
3. The Vols are closing the gap in talent. Florida is still talented, make no mistake. And they're still more talented than Tennessee. But while the Gators were busy playing defense and blocking each other on offense, the Vols have outrecruited them the last two years in a row. Not only that, but our guys have been thrown into the fire early, and they have unreasonable experience for their age. Best of all, most of those guys aren't suffering from the effects of some diabolical curse like the rest of us; their only memory of Florida is as the game that got away last year. And it's time to go get it back.
So there you have it. An improving Vols squad takes on another new coaching staff and a clunker on offense with no one to drive it. We yield the remainder of our time.