Matchup: Florida

This week, Tennessee takes on Florida in Gainesville. This is our take on this Vols vs Gators matchup.

Mention minus-11 yards rushing and every player and coach on Tennessee's team knows what you're talking about.

That's the number Tennessee had on the ground last year against Florida's outstanding front four.

That's the number that kept Tennessee from chewing up the clock in an effort to protect a 17-7 second-half lead.

That's the number that had UT fans screaming at offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe as evidence he should have passed more in the second half.

Greg Adkins, UT's offensive line coach, knows that number.

And even though part of that total was due to quarterback sacks, running backs had 19 carries for 16 yards against Florida's defensive line.

It was on embarrassing display of running by a team that likes to pound the rock.

Has Adkins mentioned minus-11 to his offensive line this week?

``Yes.''

Daily?

``Yes.''

Have the listened?

``They better,'' Adkins said. ``Quite obviously, we've got to have balance. In our offense, we always strive for that. We've got to be able to run the football and control the football.''

To beat Florida this Saturday (3:37 p.m. kickoff), Tennessee must have a semblance of a running game. That doesn't mean 200 yards. It does mean at least 100.

While going from minus-11 to more than 100 might seem optimistic, consider that Florida lost all three linebackers and three of its front four starters. The lone returner, Derrick Harvey, is a pass-rush specialist, having recorded 11.5 sacks last season.

Adkins was encouraged by UT's second-half run game against Southern Miss. After getting 42 yards in the first half, the Vols ran for 151 in the final two quarters and would have had more if not for two lost fumbles in the final five minutes.

``It gives us some confidence, but it's just a start,'' Adkins said.

Tight end Chris Brown was upset by the minue-11.

``It's terrible,'' Brown said. ``We pride ourselves on running the football. To know we had minus-11 yards is a big pride thing. You want to be able to run the football on anybody. You don't want to have to throw the ball to win games.

``Running the ball helps, especially when you're winning the game. It milks the clock. Hopefully, this year it will be different and we can run the ball down there.''

Brown said the team has been reminded often of the rushing ineptitude.

``It's kind of sticking in everybody's head,'' Brown said. ``The running backs are the people who have really been talking about it because it happened to them. They don't want it to happen again. They've been staying on the offensive line and the tight ends and the receivers just to block and let them do their thing once they get in the open field.''

Tennessee managed a season-low 220 total yards against Florida in 2006. Not only was the minus-11 yards the low mark of the season, the 231 passing yards was the third-lowest figure.

While Florida has talented defenders, it also is inexperienced as nine new starters will take the field against the Vols.

With Ainge playing well and with David Cutcliffe outstanding at finding good matchups, the Vols should be able to rack up close to 400 yards and 30 points.

But that might not be enough.

Here are the matchups between Tennessee and Florida.

Game #: 1132
Site: Gainesville
Date: Sep. 15
Conference: SECE
Coach Match-up:
For the Vols - Fulmer and for the Gators - Meyer


Vols

Gators
OLCOMMENTSOL

The Vols are averaging over 150 rushing yards and have allowed just one sack (on a running back bust). The Gators are averaging 224.5 rushing yards and are solid in pass protection with four starters back from last year's team.

QB'sCOMMENTSQB's

Ainge has been outstanding despite a broken little finger on his throwing hand. He's completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 547 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Tim Tebow has completed 73.8 percent of his passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns with no picks. He's a much better runner than Ainge but he has limited experience as the No. 1 quarterback.

RB'sCOMMENTSRB's

UT's Arian Foster is averaging 107 yards and 5.9 yards per carry. LaMarcus Coker, Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer give the Vols great depth. Florida's best runner is Kestahn Moore (169 yards, 5.5 per carry). Tebow is second (13). Percey Harvin is averaging 11.6 yards on seven carries.

WR'sCOMMENTSWR's

UT's Austin Rogers and Lucas Taylor have played well. Tight end Chris Brown is a threat. Florida has Louis Murphy, Cornelius Ingram, Percey Harvin, Riley Cooper and more, even though Andre Caldwell is hurt.


Vols

Gators
DLCOMMENTSDL

UT is giving up 160 rushing yards per game but finally got a pass rush against Southern Miss. The Vols have several pretty good linemen but not a great one. Harvey is a great pass rusher. Against two weak foes, Florida is giving up 50 rushing yards per game and 270 total.

LB'sCOMMENTSLB's

UT is led by Jerod Mayo, Rico McCoy and Ryan Karl. Each played better in the second game than the first. Florida has first-year starters Brandon Spikes, A.J. Jones and Dustin Doe.

DB'sCOMMENTSDB's

True freshman Eric Berry moves back to corner with Antonio Gaines' season-ending knee injury. Free safety Jonathan Hefney hasn't' played to his All-SEC form. Corner Marsalous Johnson has been solid. Florida's only returning starter in the secondary is strong safety Tony Joiner. True freshman Joe Haden starts at one corner. The free safety is senior Kyle Jackson.

S. TeamsCOMMENTSS. Teams

Punter Britton Colquitt should return from a pulled quad. Kicker Daniel Lincoln hasn't missed. Kick returns have been fine. Punt returns and kick coverage are below average. Florida's new punter is averaging 37.3 yards. The kicker is also new, Joey Ijjaas. Brandon James is an outstanding return specialist but he's banged up. Florida has blocked 14 kicks under Urban Meyer.


Vols

Gators
INTANGIBLES

UT won at The Swamp in 2001 and 2003. Florida won 16-7 in 2005. Vols seek revenge after blowing 17-7 second-half lead in Neyland Stadium last year. Florida is still bubbling from confidence after winning the national title and they get to play before 85,000 rowdy fans.

PREDICTION

Florida 38, Tennessee 31


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