Tennessee at Florida: Game Preview

Check out InsideTennessee.com's breakdown of the Southeastern Conference opener between Tennessee and Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.


KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/17/11
SITE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS
SERIES: Florida leads 21-19 (last meeting, 2010, Florida 31-17)
RECORDS: Tennessee 2-0, 0-0 SEC; Florida 2-0, 0-0 SEC
POLLS: Florida (No. 16 AP, No. 17 USA Today)

KEYS TO THE GAME:

Tennessee

The Volunteers have to continue to do what they do well — pass the football. The Volunteers lead the SEC in passing and will have to throw the ball well on Saturday in order to have a chance to top the Gators. The young Tennessee offensive line will get its first true test Saturday against Florida's defensive line. They must give sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray the time he needs to work the ball down the field.

Florida

The Gators have to rattle Bray in his first start in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Volunteers are carving up opposing defenses through the air, but Bray has yet to get a grass stain on his jersey. Florida must get to the QB early and often. Their running game will need to be successful as well in order to play keep away from the Vols offense.

SCOUTING THE TEAMS:

Both Tennessee and Florida are extremely young in every aspect of their football teams. The Gators marched out nine true freshmen in their season opener only to be topped by Tennessee who played 12.

Tennessee and Florida have both dominated their first two opponents and have yet to be truly tested. Week 3 for both teams will be a great measuring stick for where they are as they enter the bulk of 2011.

The Volunteers have shown that they are going to be a pass-heavy offense. Bray leads the SEC in every passing statistical category including touchdowns, efficiency, yards per game and total offense.

Florida will march out two true freshmen and two true sophomores in their secondary, which will be challenged by Tennessee's passing attack. They will counter the Tennessee offense with a talented defensive line, which Derek Dooley called one of the best in the country.

The Florida offense is sure to give Tennessee a steady dose of running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. The Florida duo leads the Southeastern Conference with 502 yards on the season on 76 carries. The Gators ran the ball a blistering 49 times in the 2010 meeting.

The Vol defense is surrendering an average of 138.5 rushing yards per game this season and will have to be sound in run defense in order to hang with Florida.

FAST FACTS:

Tennessee Volunteers

— A Tennessee win this Saturday would mark the first time the Volunteers have topped the Gators and opened the season 3-0 since 2004.

— The Vols have not beaten a ranked opponent on the road in 10 games dating back to No. 10 Georgia in 2006.

— Dooley's Vols are undefeated when leading the game heading into halftime. In fact, all of Dooley's eight wins have come with the Vols leading at the half.

— Tennessee has not been ranked dating back to 2008 when UT was No. 18 before an overtime loss to UCLA.

— Wide receivers Da'Rick Rogers (No. 3) and Justin Hunter (No. 1) both rank in the top three of SEC receiving yardage. They have combined for 502 yards and five touchdowns through two weeks of play.

No. 16/17 Florida Gators

— At the start of fall camp Florida only has nine scholarship seniors on their roster, which equals the third fewest for a UF squad since 1951.

— Florida has been extremely explosive with their running attack collecting 19 runs for 10 plus yards this season.

— Chris Rainey ranks fifth among SEC rushers through two games with 198 yards.

— Quarterback John Brantley sits at No. 4 among SEC QBs in passing yards with 424 yards.

STAT LEADERS:

Tennessee Volunteers

Tyler Bray — 51-65, 698 yds., 7 TD/0 INT

Tauren Poole — 45 att., 199 yds., 1 TD

Justin Hunter — 16 catches, 302 yds., 2 TD

Da'Rick Rogers — 15 catches, 200 yds., 3 TD

No. 16/17 Florida Gators

John Brantley — 33-49, 424 yds., 1 TD/2 INT

Chris Rainey — 27 att., 198 yds., 2 TD

Chris Rainey — 9 catches, 110 yds., 1 TD

Deonte Thompson — 5 catches, 67 yds., 0 TD

STAGGERING STATS:

— Rainey and Demps rank No. 1 and No. 2 amongst active running backs since 2007 in yards per carry with 7.1. The Volunteers played the No. 3 back in that category in Week 2 in Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead who averaged 6.9.

— Despite inferior opponents and a strong defensive front, the Florida Gators have only produced two sacks totally 19 yards.

— Florida is a staggering minus two in turnover margin through their first two games despite winning their games by a combined score of 80-3.

— The Volunteers have reached the end zone 8 of 10 times when in the red zone this season. Florida has scored seven touchdowns in 12 trips inside its foe's 20.

— Tennessee has converted on 20 of 30 third downs, which ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Gators have converted 11 of 22 third down attempts.

COACHING CONNECTIONS GALORE:

The two head coaches Dooley and Muschamp know each other very well. They spent time together on staffs at LSU (2001-04) and at the Miami Dolphins (2005).

Tennessee defensive line coach Lance Thompson was also a part of the LSU staff alongside Muschamp and Dooley (2002-03).

Florida's defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Volunteers assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett joined Muschamp and Dooley on the Dolphins staff in 2005.

Florida running backs coach Brian White worked with Baggett at the University of Washington during the 2008 season.

WHAT A WIN MEANS:

Tennessee Volunteers

For Tennessee, a win in The Swamp would be a huge boost for Dooley and his young football team. It would make the Vols a true contender in the east division. You have to believe the Vols would have a legitimate chance to sneak into both polls as well.

No. 16/17 Florida Gators

For the Gators, a win would make the Muschamp bandwagon a lot more crowded. If Muschamp can keep the status quo against the Volunteers it will reaffirm the hire that athletic director Jeremy Foley made to replace Urban Meyer.

Running back Tauren Poole's production with the ground game could have a direct effect on Tennessee's chances at a victory.


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