TN/ FLA Matchups

It's that time of the year again - the annual SEC Eastern showdown between Tennessee and Florida. Here, I breakdown all the important match-ups between the Vols and Gators.




Florida's offensive line vs the Volunteer front
The Gator O-line has quietly become one of the best in the conference.  Florida OL coach Joe Wickline has shown the ability to find a way to get his best five on the field and continue to have success.  The line is two deep with the return of Jonathan Colon and Anthony Guerrero.  Mondre Dickerson is a load in the middle at 298.  He started his career at end for the Volunteers.  Constantin Ritzman is the right end on Max Starks and has nine career sacks.  The Gators should be able to handle the stunts of the front four especially because of the consistency at center with Mike Degory.  The Vols run defense is aided by their athletic and blitzing linebackers.
Tennessee' offensive line vs the Gator front
The Vols have not mauled their first two opponents on the ground.  They have big played them to death.  The line should be the strength and they return a ton of experience.  The front is coached by former Gator OL coach Jimmy Ray Stephens.  He will have them fired up and ready to go.  The attack seems to favor the left side with Michael Munoz at tackle and Anthony Herrera at guard. The Gator defense is out-weighed in the middle again and will need to use its leverage and quickness.  Maurice Mitchell needs to be a force this week for Charlie Strong.  The defensive ends once again will be the focus of the attack of the Volunteers.  Until Bobby McCray and Darrell Lee have a big game in a big game the edge will fall with the visitors.
Gator running game vs Volunteers defense
The Gators are coming off a near record performance a week ago but this is not FAMU.  Tennessee has not seen a team in their first two that can run the ball at them like Florida.  The Gators will have to account for walked up linebackers, which sometimes disrupts the offensive line.  The key to a big game for the Gator attack will be the wide receivers.  The down field blocking must be good, especially from OJ Small and Andre Caldwell.  Ben Troupe will be on the hot seat having to match-up with Kevin Simon.  If the Gators can block at the point of attack like they did against Miami they can rip off some big runs.  Deshawn Wynn has the ability to get the ball to the next level of the defense and he needs to be the primary carrier.
Tennessee running game vs Gator defense
The Volunteers are averaging 248 yards on the ground which is 10th in the country, but they have really struggled to do it consistently.  Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis have gashed teams with big gainers. The Gators will "run-blitz" Tennessee by down-distance and formation.  This will allow the linebackers and Guss Scott to meet the backs at the line of scrimmage, if called correctly.  It appears that Randy Sanders has settled on Houston as the back and will run the ball more so than not on first down.  The history in this series tells us that Sanders may do just about anything.  The key linebacker is Reid Fleming.  He must recognize the power and sweep and disrupt.  He has not had a "big" game in his career and this may be his first.  Florida's run defense right now is 8th in the conference at 125 yards per game and is not quite tuned up for a four quarter performance.
Tennessee passing attack vs Gator secondary
Casey Clausen has thrown 5 touchdowns in two games and loves to throw the fade to James Banks.  The tight end is non-existant in this offense so far this season, but that does not mean Florida can forget about him.  UF could be in man coverage or quarters 50% of the time.  This will allow Johnny Lamar, Keiwan Ratliff and Daryl Dixon to take some chances and possibly get interceptions.  Guss Scott's first goal will be run support.  Tennessee will throw screens to their tailbacks and if set up properly could hit UF hard.  Lamar and Ratliff will have to continue their physical play to snuff these plays out.  Clausen is not going to beat you throwing the ball 40 times plus per game (see last year's result).
Florida's passing attack vs volunteer secondary
This used to be the biggest mismatch of all in the series  .It may not be as big but the Gators do have some positives in their favor.  Kelvin Kight and Carlos Perez are off to very good starts and Perez had a big game last year against the Vols.  Ben Troupe will catch five balls this week and should be open versus the Vol defense.  The key for UF is if they can connect on a big pass play early.  This secondary plays a lot of man coverage and will lose confidence if Dallas Baker or Perez can get behind them.  Jabari Greer is solid and Rashad Baker is their best defensive back.  Against two mid major passing teams they have given up an average of 206 yards per game, which ranks them 8th in the conference.  It doesn't matter who plays quarterback for Florida.

I think the Gators have an edge because they are playing at home and the crowd will make it difficult on punts and kicks.  Dustin Colquitt is very good but the Volunteer kicking attack is shaky at best.  Mike Woodford has worked real hard to put together good block plans each and every week, but this week a return plan will be the order of the day.  Look for the Gators to break a return either punt or kick.  Also this is the type of game that "special" plays in the kicking game are on the playbook.

It is hard to get a feel for Tennessee because Fresno State was so bad on offense and Marshall almost beat them.  I think it is always about turnovers and the running game when these two teams get together.  Can Florida's front seven hold up for four quarters in a tight physical game?  Will the Vols come out throwing first to try and soften the Gators?  Can the Gator quarterbacks operate against and attacking blitzing team of which they have not seen this season?  I think the home field is still important in this rivalry and the Gators have shown early this season that they can take care of the football while the jury is out on Tennessee.

MY PREDICTION: Florida 27-20

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