Game: #10 Florida vs Tennessee
Location: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville TN. Capacity approx. 107 000
Where can I watch: CBS at 3:30pm.
Back in the day this use to be one of the primo rivalries in all of college football, back when Steve Spurrier was tearing through the SEC and Philip Fulmer had built his Tennessee Volunteers into one of the top 5 programs in America. During the 90s this rivalry produced 2 national champions and all of the SEC east champions. Since 1992, when the conference began playing its annual championship game, Tennessee and Florida have gone to the title game a combined 15 of 18 years. Under Urban Meyer, Florida has taken the all time lead in the series 20-19 amid a 5 game win streak. The recent fall of Tennessee from the upper echelons of college football (thanks Lame Kiffen) has dampened the hype surrounding this rivalry, but rest assured the players on both sides know how big this game is.
Florida is a 2 touchdown favorite in Knoxville this weekend. Tennessee appears to be a team in rebuilding mode. They jumped out to an impressive early lead against the #5 ranked Oregon Ducks last week and went into the half tied at 13. Then the wheels fell off the bus and Oregon trounced the Vols with 35 unanswered second half points. So depending on which Tennessee team shows up to play Saturday, last week’s first half team or second half team, we might have one heck of a ball game on Saturday.
Tennessee appears to be a team with limited depth and some questionable talent at certain positions. On paper, Florida would appear to have a huge advantage over an inexperienced and outgunned Tennessee squad. Take for instance the “battle of the trenches”, the Gator O-line, which paved the way for over 200 yards of rushing in the second half of last week’s game, outweighs the Volunteer D-line by an average of 50 pounds per starter. More importantly Florida will rotate anywhere between 6 to 8 linemen on Saturday while Tennessee has no such depth and will rely on a superhuman effort by star DT Montori Hughes.
However, games are not played on paper, and Florida will have to earn its win in Neyland stadium because the Volunteers will not roll over for their most hated SEC East rival. Quite frankly Florida has looked bad on offense, so bad that they have dropped in the polls twice despite winning each week. The young defense surrendered over 200yds on the ground to USF but has compensated by causing 9 turnovers in 2 games. This game is pivotal for the Gators as they try to determine if they are for real and can contend for the SEC crown. Tennessee will “smack em in the mouth” and test them for sure. Florida will have to get right back up and smack them back on Saturday.
Florida Wins If:
The Gators will cruise in this one if they can get some big plays early on offense and QB John Brantley spreads the ball around to his receivers. The Gators must show that the offense is truly back by not being as predictable as they have been since offensive coordinator Steve Addazio took over in 2009. If they jump out to the early lead, the Vols offense is not built to play catch up. On defense the golden rule will be to stop the run. SEC rushing leader Taureen Poole is a stud and Tennessee’s most important weapon on offense, he will be used often and early so the Gator D must shut him down and not allow him to churn out yards and chew up the clock.
Tennessee Wins If:
They establish the run and win the battle for time of possession. The Gator defense has shown itself to be a “bend but don’t break” defense so if they can break the Gators for long drives and cash in for 7 when they get into the redzone they will be in great shape. Tennessee cannot afford to turn the ball over against the ball hawking Gator defense so protecting the ball will be imperative for any success.
The most important factor in this game will be how the young Gators react to playing their first road game in a very hostile environment. This will be the first road start for many key players on offense and defense for Florida including QB John Brantley. If they are obviously rattled and overwhelmed by the pressure, we will have an upset on Saturday. Another factor is if starting safety Will Hill plays his first game of the season or not.
Being a Gator I cannot pick against them. I expect this one to be close throughout and closer than the 14pt spread but Florida pulls away in the second half. Gator will win by 10.
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Written by The Gator Great