Donnan thinks UT can beat Gators

Although Florida looked impressive in nearly upsetting No. 2 Miami last weekend, ESPN football analyst Jim Donnan believes Tennessee has a good shot at beating the Gators Sept. 20 in Gainesville.

Speaking Monday before the Knoxville Quarterback Club, the former University of Georgia head man suggested that Florida's defensive line is suspect.

''My offensive strategy against Florida would be to definitely run the ball early on them because I don't think their defensive front is anywhere near what they've had,'' he said.

In addition, he thinks the Gators' psyche could be fragile after blowing a 19-point third-quarter lead in their 38-33 loss to the Hurricanes.

''Deep down, from the end of the third quarter on, I don't think Florida thought they could win that game,'' Donnan said. ''And Miami, deep down, thought they WERE going to win. They got it going, came back and won that game.''

Finally, Donnan believes the Big Orange looked pretty good in beating Fresno State 24-6 and Marshall 34-24 in Games 1 and 2.

''I like the Vols,'' he said. ''They look good and they've played two pretty good football teams, and that helps you going into the (conference) season.... The last time you played in The Swamp, you did a good job (beating Florida 34-32) and I think you can do it again.''

Although the UT-Florida winner may have the inside track for the SEC East title, Donnan cautions that fans shouldn't discount the defending SEC champ Georgia Bulldogs.

''Georgia's got some good players, I guarantee it,'' he said. ''I recruited a lot of 'em but this guy (Mark Richt) has done a good job with 'em. The first year (2001) he had a little struggle getting used to the SEC but last year they were great.''

Donnan described Bulldog quarterback David Greene as ''a good decision-maker who's going to make a difference for them all year.''

Over in the SEC West, Auburn was pegged as a preseason favorite for the national title by The Sporting News and The New York Times, yet Tommy Tuberville's Tigers stand 0-2 after losing 23-0 to Southern Cal and 17-3 to Georgia Tech.

''Auburn's the most unbelievable situation I've heard of,'' Donnan said. ''I didn't think there was any way in the world they'd be 0-2. They haven't even scored a touchdown in two games.''

Still, the former Georgia coach said Auburn's loss to Southern Cal was no disgrace.

''They've got a really good thing going for them,'' Donnan said of the Trojans. ''It reminds me a lot of what Spurrier had at Florida when they were really rolling.''

Much of the blame for Auburn's slow start is being placed on quarterback Jason Campbell, but Donnan thinks that's unfair. He believes the staff changes on The Plain disrupted the Tigers' continuity.

''Then, when things don't work out, you have a tendency to question each other more than you would if you had that continuity,'' he said. ''That's just natural; it happens in coaching. It's really important to keep that cohesiveness.... When you get a little doubt -- a little negativity in your program -- pretty soon things aren't going good.''

Donnan hints that Alabama might be the hottest team in the West, although NCAA sanctions will prevent the Tide from contending for the SEC title.

''In Alabama's last 19 games, they're 15-4 -- with two losses to Oklahoma, which is a top-three program, one to Auburn and one to Georgia, which was a top-three team last year,'' he said. ''They've got a pretty good program going there.''

Donnan likes LSU, noting that the Tigers' schedule ''is a little bit better than Auburn's or Alabama's, so I look for them to be tough in the West.''

As for the Arkansas Razorbacks, he said, ''They've got too many question marks, particularly in their passing game. They just can't throw the ball anywhere near what you've got to do in college football.''


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