Superstitious? Vols tackle curse of Gators, GameDay, checkers

Sept. 19, 2016: When No. 14 Tennessee hosts No. 19 Florida, the Vols will have a chance to shake several losing streaks connected to the Gators, ESPN College Gameday, and fans checkering Neyland Stadium orange and white.

KNOXVILLE - It's almost like the University of Tennessee football team is trying to eliminate every recent gridiron curse in a single weekend.

When No. 14 Tennessee hosts No. 19 Florida, Vols supporters will "Checker Neyland" by having entire sections of the stadium alternate wearing orange or white.  However, the fans who conjured up the idea prior to the 2014 season are now asking fans to reverse which sections wear white or orange compared to previous years.

"This will be the third time fans have checkered the stadium.  During second one against Oklahoma, we had a lot of fans request to flip it [the colors worn by each section], so we're just mixing it up," said Tim Mcleod, one of the co-founders of the Checker Neyland effort.

The decision to reverse the colors was "completely about the fans" and nothing to do with superstition.  But if the Vols can defeat the Florida Gators, it will break several recent patterns that have plagued the program's recent past.

BUDDING CHECKERBOARD CURSE?

It's way too soon to call anything a curse after only two games, but the Vols are 0-2 in the previous "Checker Neyland" games against Oklahoma in 2015 and Florida in 2014.  However, the checkerboard pattern was an incredible fan effort and can hardly be blamed for the final scores of each game against high-quality opponents.

If you're a Tennessee fan heading to the game and want to know whether to wear white or orange, visit the website CheckerNeyland.com and enter your section, row, and seat.

FLORIDA FRUSTRATION

The greatest relief and joy for Tennessee fans would simply be a victory over Florida.  For 11 straight seasons, the Gators have doled out a big dose of heartbreak to the Volunteers.  This year, Tennessee goes into the game with a home field advantage, a roster loaded with upperclassmen, and is favored by odds-makers to emerge with a victory.

The last time the Vols defeated the Gators was 2004 in Neyland Stadium when Ron Zook was Florida's head coach, Candace Parker was on campus, Justin Timberlake was a member of NSYNC, and Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY GLITCH

The Vols will have to overcome another streak to defeat the Gators.  UT has lost five consecutive games when ESPN College GameDay comes to Knoxville.

Sure, Tennessee just beat Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago when GameDay was in Bristol.  The Vols also have several victories as the road team in GameDay matchups.  But UT is only 2-6 when GameDay sets up its stage in Knoxville.  That includes five straight losses consisting of defeats to Florida in 2012, Auburn in 2004, Florida and Miami in 2002, and Florida in 2000.

The last time Tennessee tasted victory with GameDay in Rocky Top was 1999 against Notre Dame.  The Fighting Irish didn't have a prayer against a powerful Tennessee squad led by quarterback Tee Martin.  The Vols whipped up on the Irish by a final score of 38-14.

GLOOMY GREY RECORD

UT plans to dress for success against Florida by wearing its "smokey grey" uniforms.  The color scheme was first unveiled in the 2013 season.  Rumblings of a curse quickly infiltrated the fan base after the Vols lost to Georgia and Vanderbilt while wearing the cloudy colors.

However, the Vols wore the grays again in 2015 and recorded a massive comeback victory against the Georgia Bulldogs.  If that wasn't enough to cast aside any concerns about a curse, fans can take solace in the success of a specific brand.  The two losses were when gray Tennessee gear was still provided by Adidas.  The Vols are undefeated in the Nike versions of the "smokey greys."

(© 2016 WBIR)


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