Gators, Vols Clash in SEC Opener

The No. 4 ranked Florida Gators kick off the SEC season this afternoon against the Tennessee Volunteers. The Gators pounded the Vols in last year's meeting, but it was Tennessee that advanced to Atlanta at the end of the season with a chance at winning the SEC title.

Those circumstances have left a sour taste in the mouth of the Gators that has carried over into this season. But beating the Vols in Knoxville will be no easy task. Florida had to eek out a win in their last trip to Rocky Top and have lost 11 of 19 games in Knoxville.

The key for the Gators defensively will be to stop Tennessee's running game. The Vols are averaging 177 yards a game, while the Gator defense is holding opponents to just 60 yards on the ground. The Gators held their ground against a talented Miami running attack, but the offensive line and other offensive threats of the Canes don't match those of the Vols.

On the other side of the ball, Florida is looking to breakout after a sluggish performance two weeks ago against Miami. The Gators only gained 345 yards of total offense with less than 100 coming on the ground. Florida hopes to beef up that ground attack on Saturday and will look to get running back Emmanuel Moody more involved. Moody didn't see a snap against Miami and was brought in for mop up duty against Hawaii.

"I'm hoping to see some playing time for this game," Moody said earlier this week. "We're really going to try and establish the running game against Tennessee."

Moody expected to play two weeks ago against the Canes, so when his number was never called, he was a very surprised.

"I didn't really know what was going on," he said. "All I can do is be patient and wait for my turn. … It was a little disappointment. There was no anger or frustration because that' not going to do me any good. I was really just thinking of how I can find a reason and hopefully this week it will be a different story."

Moody said part of the reason was that Florida couldn't get it's ground game going against Miami, but they're hoping that changes against Tennessee.

"They told me I'll be in the game this week," Moody said. "I just have to keep working hard and treat every rep like it's my last. I know a lot of people are expecting a lot, so my first carry I'm going to give it 110 percent."

On special teams, the Gators know they're always going to get 110 percent from return specialist Brandon James. James loves the big rivalry games, especially the Vols. Last year, James opened the scoring with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, and he returned four punts for 65 yards two years ago against the Vols.

"It was my first big SEC game," James said earlier this week. "I was kind of surprised when coach put me in, but I just tried to make the most of my opportunity. … The defense got a three-and-out and they said go in there. I said, ‘huh?' He told me to go in there, field the punt and make a big play for the team."

James likes the big stage.

"I live for that kind of stuff," James said. "I live for the Volunteer crowd. Going into that place, it's a very competitive atmosphere against some good players. You get up a little for the big rivalries. We knew we had an edge on special teams and before the game we were so pumped up."

James has already returned a punt for a touchdown this season when he went 74 yards against Hawaii.


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