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Where Florida vs. Alabama ranks among The Swamp’s recent big games

Saturday’s game against the No. 1 Crimson Tide is one of the biggest in Gainesville this century.
The Florida Gators' game against LSU in 2006 was one of the biggest contests at The Swamp this century.
The Florida Gators' game against LSU in 2006 was one of the biggest contests at The Swamp this century. [ Times (2006) ]
Published Sep. 15
Updated Sep. 15

When No. 11 Florida hosts No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, it will be one of the biggest games in recent Ben Hill Griffin Stadium history. Though it doesn’t compare to some of the Steve Spurrier blockbusters (like Tennessee in 1997, or Florida State in 1993 or 1999), this game against the reigning national champion is one of the most anticipated contests Gainesville has seen this century.

Here’s how Saturday’s game stacks up against some of the other top games The Swamp has showcased since 2000:

Related: One play shows why Anthony Richardson isn’t Florida’s starter yet

8. vs. No. 3 Mississippi, 2015

Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, a Wharton High alumnus, helped lead a win over Mississippi.
Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, a Wharton High alumnus, helped lead a win over Mississippi. [ Times (2015) ]

Jim McElwain aced his first big test, as No. 25 UF rolled to a 38-10 win behind Will Grier’s four touchdown passes. At the time, it felt like the moment where the Gators showed that they were back among the nation’s elite teams. Looking back, it was the kind of fool’s-gold performance that defined McElwain’s tenure.

7. vs. No. 4 LSU, 2008

The No. 11 Gators’ 51-21 rout is the last time UF has beaten a reigning national champion. This one showed UF’s resolve and potential after the Gators lost at Mississippi two weeks earlier. It also helped pave the way for Urban Meyer’s second national title.

6. vs. No. 9 LSU, 2006

Stop me if this sounds familiar, but the No. 5 Gators had success with a two-quarterback system featuring a dazzling young player (Tim Tebow) and a more experienced one (Chris Leak). UF’s 23-10 win cemented the program’s first 6-0 start since the 1996 national title run and helped lead to the Gators’ championship this year, too.

5. vs. No. 7 Auburn, 2019

Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen was slightly excited about his team's win over Auburn in 2019.
Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen was slightly excited about his team's win over Auburn in 2019. [ JOHN RAOUX | Associated Press ]

Dan Mullen’s biggest home game until the one this weekend. No. 10 UF’s 24-13 win was College GameDay’s first trip to Gainesville in seven seasons and a sign that Mullen’s program was heading in the right direction.

4. vs. No. 5 Tennessee, 2005

This was Meyer’s third game at UF and his first big one. Meyer’s defense held the Volunteers scoreless in the second half in the No. 6 Gators’ 16-7 win that had UF ecstatic about its future. “This is what we’ve been waiting for,” safety Jarvis Herring said afterward. Tennessee cratered to finish 5-6.

Related: We ranked all 78 Florida college football games from worst to first

3. vs. No. 1 Alabama, Saturday

This rematch is a measuring stick for Mullen’s program. UF played the Crimson Tide tighter than anyone else last year in a 52-46 loss in the SEC title game. Alabama has reloaded since then. Saturday will tell us whether Florida has, too. A loss wouldn’t be devastating — the teams could meet again in Atlanta — but an upset would be a program-changer that shows that Mullen can push the Gators into the sport’s top tier.

2. vs. No. 1 Miami, 2002

The Hurricanes were the defending national champions in this top-six matchup. It gets added juice because it was the second game of the Ron Zook era, so optimism was still plentiful, and because it was the rivals’ first regular-season meeting in 15 years. The game, however, was not great; Miami led by 10 at halftime and pulled away for a 41-16 win.

1. vs. No. 5 Tennessee, 2001

Tennessee topped Florida when Rex Grossman's two-point conversion fell incomplete.
Tennessee topped Florida when Rex Grossman's two-point conversion fell incomplete. [ Times (2001) ]

In a game pushed to December because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Volunteers and No. 2 Gators were playing for a trip to the SEC title game and, most people expected, an appearance in the BCS national title game. Tennessee’s Travis Stephens ran for 226 yards, and UF missed a two-point conversion in the final two minutes in the Volunteers’ 34-32 triumph.

Related: How is Mike Norvell’s FSU tenure different than Willie Taggart’s?

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