The Case for Florida

Welcome to Devil's Advocate — Inside Tennessee's version of point/counterpoint — where each week analysts Randy Moore and Jeffery Stewart take opposite sides of the field to make their case for our readers' regular amusement and occasional edification.

Remember when beating Florida in Gainesville was akin to beating the Russians in Moscow?

Sure the Gators had outstanding talent at every position, but they also had humid weather and hostile fans. The combination of the three would eventually wear you down if it didn't destroy you outright.

Times have changed for opponents in general and Tennessee in particular. After enduring a 30-year drought at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the Vols are going for their third straight victory in this dynamic series that has come to symbolize the best of SEC football since the League subdivided back in 1991.

Tennessee's task is ever the more intriguing because the Vols will be attempting to accomplish this rare road trifecta against three different Florida head coaches. That variable could be a plus for a UT program steeped in stability — especially early in the season when Urban Meyers offense is still not second nature to players schooled for three years in Ron Zook's pro-style attack.

Conversely, though Tennessee has studied what has come to be known as the "Utah Offense" during the offseason, the Vols haven't gotten a good look at Florida's offense in the first two games. Neither can they be prepared for the type of problems posed by Florida's fleet fleat of wideouts in conjunction with a wide open attack.

In many respects the Utah Offense as executed by Floridan's personnel is UT's worst nightmare.

• First it forces the Vols to play assignment football which can take away a lot of their aggressiveness as well as limit blitzes.

• Secondly, it requires a lot of press coverage, which has been a problem area for the Vols the last couple of seasons. If this was a strength would UT have shuffled so many defensive backs between safety and corner?

• Finally, defensive backs in a relatively inexperienced and unproven secondary can easily get trapped between carrying out assignments and reverting to their aggressive nature. That spells big plays.

Tennessee's front four didn't get a lot of pressure on UAB's Darrell Hackney two weeks ago and the Blazers were able to control the ball without the benefit of a running attack. Give Chris Leak that same amount of time with his outstanding receivers and a quality running game and it could be lights out early at the Swamp for the Vols.

The counterpoint of the DB-vs.-WR equation is also discouraging for Big Orange fans anticipating a third straight win in the house that the ole ball coach built (or at least expanded). Florida's strength may be its secondary which includes excellent cover DB's capable of locking down UT's receivers especially if the Vols don't have time or the arm strength to threaten them deep.

That would leave the Gators safeties the freedom to creep up in run support and place even greater pressure on the Vols to move the ball on the ground against a defense stacked to stop the run.

Add humid conditions and a hostile crowd and things could get uncomfortable in a hurry.


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