Gould Headshot squareThere was a time when Tennessee-Florida was must-watch football. Understated Phillip Fulmer vs. outspoken Steve Spurrier.

They usually played in mid-September, for basically all the SEC East marbles. It was kind of like the Daytona 500, where the championship game started the season.

Then Fulmer lost a few games and his mojo, and Lane Kiffin was given the keys to Rocky Top in 2009 by boosters eager for the next era. That didn’t go so well. Nor did the Derek Dooley era.

Butch Jones finally seems to have righted the ship. Tennessee’s 9-4 mark, which was diminished by four agonizingly close losses (to Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama), has expectations soaring high above the Great Smoky Mountains.

In his fourth season, Jones has 17 starters back from a team that was “basically four plays away from an undefeated season,’’ as Phil Steele put it. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.