Florida and Tennessee -- it is the game in the month of September. Do you want a playoff system? Well this is as close as it gets with the winner moving on to challenge Georgia for the East title. This rivalry is like many others in that teams with equal talent play games that are decided by the little things. The winner is usually good in the turnovers area and special teams. Also many times one big play can decide the outcome. Just look at the last two years under Ron Zook and you will find game changing plays, turnovers and timeouts. Florida is taking a different mentality to this year's showdown. This one will be all business and the Gator's look to take care of the Vols and move on.
The Gators are 9-1 vs the SEC East and have only lost one game on the road under Ron Zook. Chris Leak is undefeated on the road as the Gators starting quarterback. A good sign for the Gator quarterback is that even though he did not have his best stuff last week he did not throw an interception. In the last 14 meetings the squad that committed less turnover is 9-3 and two years they tied on turnovers. Ball security will be a premium for the Gators with the conditions expected to be difficult.
A lot has been made of the possible deluge that will be dumped on Neyland Stadium. Many media members believe it favors Florida because of two years ago but remember that was Clausen vs Grossman. One reason it does favor UF, however, is that when they have addressed the media this week it has been no big deal because of the win in 2002. Tennessee has battled all week the perception that they do not like playing in the rain. If it does rain don't expect Larry Fedora to hold back on the passing game. Fedora has the same philosophy on rain with the passing game as Steve Spurrier did and that it's an advantage for the offense because the defense does not know where your going and the traction makes it tough to redirect.
Snippetts and Tidbits…
Defense: The key is the front four and the safeties. You know 55 will step up but Thomas and McDonald must not get moved around in the power running game. Tennessee likes to run the "Iso play" and "Wham G" so it is important that the defensive tackles disrupt those two plays.
The ends will be important when the Vols run the sweep and bootleg and in passing situations they must keep Schaeffer in the pocket and make him make a play. Everything starts with the running game and Tennessee has four solid backs. Riggs may be the most dangerous in wet conditions.
I think UF "run blitzes" a lot on first down and Crowder will be set loose to roam. If the safeties can cover the field well enough Florida can bring pressure from a side and still have some help over the top.
Look for Jarvis Herring to make a name for himself this week. I am not as concerned about the secondary as most. I think they were active and around the ball and must finish plays this week when given the opportunity.
Offense: Larry Fedora does not want to be one dimensional in his attack and will mix in plenty of run opportunities. Look for the Gators to get under center more this week than they did a week ago. UF will look to establish a ground game to set up the play action pass.
I also think the Gators will throw the ball down the field early to soften up safety Jason Allen. Brandon Johnson is a good tackler and gets around the line of scrimmage but last season the Tennessee safeties did not fear anything down the middle.
Florida's four wide set will be used to speed up the Vol defense and take some shots down the field. Another key this week for the passing game is the middle of the field. This is where you can find first downs and big plays with the intermediate passing game.
The running backs must protect Chris Leak's back side. Weak side linebacker Kevin Burnett is an outstanding blitzer who will bring pressure. Leak was very good in the medium passing game last week with eleven completions for more than ten yards. Expect Florida to use it's screen package in blitz situations and even in the redzone.
The Vols like to pressure when backed up and Fedora could slip a screen to someone for a touchdown. The speed of the Volunteer linebackers makes it tough to beat them outside in the running game. Expect Fason and Wynn to run a lot of draw and counter plays.
The magic number for Fedora's offense is 20 completions. When Leak gets to that number is greatly enhances Florida's chances.
Numbers that Matter for UF –Tennessee…
- Tennessee is 3-7 vs UF after an open date.
- The home team has lost the last four in the series.
- In last 14 meetings the running game has decided the winner twelve
- Phil Fulmer is 3-3 in his last six vs UF.
- Ron Zook is 9-1 vs the SEC East in his two years.
- In the last 14 meetings, the team with less turnover is 8-3 with three
- Dustin Colquitt averaged 51.3 yds per punt in the opener. (field
- Both games in the Ron Zook era have been decided by double digits.(30-13/24-10)
Stat of the Week: 1,121 yds, 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Record 5-0. Leak's stats and record away from home last regular season.
Two minute drill…
- Chris Leak performed well but not his best last week versus Eastern Michigan. He was sick and not feeling well yet still went out and threw
three touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
- Deshawn Wynn seems to bothered by a sore shoulder. There is nothing
official but I think Wynn wants to get the ball more and is struggling a
bit. I expect he will and needs to keep his head in the game.
- Dee Webb had some tough plays and you hope the beginning of the game
does not turn south for him. Confidence is a big thing with him and he has
been challenged this week by Zook to step up and make some big plays.
- Stephen Harris is healthy and it showed last week in the game with Eastern Michigan. I think Harris is the X-factor on the D-line and with the rotation keeping him and the other guys fresh he could have a huge game.
Bring your "A" game…
- Bubba Caldwell and Dallas Baker have to show out this week for UF.
Enough of the experience not starting cards, they need to deliver. Tennessee
does not have one guy that cover either man one on one.
- Randy Hand and Jon Colon are the only ones who can allow Tennessee's
best defensive lineman Haralson to make plays. They must handle his bull
rush and it could be Hand on Haralson all night.
- Webb and Hill must play confidently and support on the run. The pass
defense is always important but this week so is run support.
- Marcus Thomas and Ray McDonald must keep guys off Channing Crowder. If Thomas and McDonald don't win the L.O.S. battle, UF will struggle.
Prediction time: Weather does not effect the game, it effects the minds of those playing the games. Florida will handle it well and play well. In the Zook era this series has gotten away from being a nail biter. I like the Gators 34-20.