Hooker's five things UT must do to win

What are the five things that Tennessee must do to beat Florida this week? Veteran sports reporter Dave Hooker gives us his thoughts on what the Vols must do to pull off the upset.

The Tennessee-Florida series doesn't have the same panache it once had, but it's still one of the SEC's premier matchups.

The winner of Saturday's game won't lament UT's rebuilding status or the absence of Tim Tebow. The victor will enjoy the spoils as if it were the 1990s all over again.

And while the winning team won't have the same 1990s-like inside track to an SEC Championship (remember the Crimson Tide), it will have a head start to winning the SEC East and playing for that crown in Atlanta.

The Gators expect as much. They've been there many times recently. For the Vols, a win would be an incredible boost to a season that many fans have already written off. In order for that to happen, here are five things UT must do to pull off the upset.

5.Well Stocked – Luke Stocker has three catches for 19 yards this season. That won't do this week. UT showed its hand last week by relying on the running game, and then tried to attack one-on-one coverage outside.

The Gators will be ready for that. The Vols need to attack the middle of the field enough to keep Florida honest.

4. Get Shortie – Florida practically had a guaranteed first down on short-yardage downs with Tebow at the helm. Everybody in the stadium knew he'd rumble for a new set of downs, but it didn't matter because few ever stopped him.

Florida is less predictable – and less effective - without Tebow. The Gators are 10th best in the SEC, converting just 32 percent of their third downs. UT has to win some of those battles.

3. Protect the Gooch – Darin Gooch may prove to be an All-American one day. That likely won't happen Saturday. It's up to UT's guards and quarterback Matt Simms to help Gooch with some of the line calls, as the Gators will surely challenge him with multiple looks.

2. Kill the Assassins' Spirit – Florida's secondary has dubbed themselves "The Assassins" and they've lived up to the billing with eight interceptions this season.

It's up to UT's receivers to run the correct routes, gain adequate separation and break up would-be interceptions on Saturday. And, of course, Simms can't throw into coverage – or the Vols could get killed.

1. Win the Ole' Battle – It was once a constant topic of conversation: Whichever team wins the rushing battle will win the UT-Florida game. Even in the pass-happy Steve Spurrier days it was almost always the case.

It's especially true for the Vols this year. UT must establish the run to control the clock and set up some favorable matchups downfield in the passing game. Without that, it will be a long day for the Vols.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories