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FEELS LIKE...2003? Tennessee travels to Gainesville looking for first win in the Swamp in 18 years

By: The All Vol Call in Show Staff


Graphic | John Dunn

It's no secret that Tennessee has their hands full against the Gators on Saturday. Florida is currently ranked 11th in the country, with their lone loss coming to the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama. However, Alabama didn't decimate Florida, and barring a horrible hand-off exchange between the Gators' quarterback and running back, Florida may have been in a good place with a chance to actually not only tie, but potentially win that game.

While Tennessee's defensive stats look promising heading into the Swamp, we have to remember that the competition they have faced this year wasn't equivalent to SEC competition; not even Pittsburgh. Florida currently ranks as the nation's second-best rushing offense, eighth in total yards, and 10th in quarterback sacks. These stats are highlighted, because they will likely be deciding factors in the game.

Historically, (not always), the team that rushes for the most yardage wins this game. Currently, the Gators' second-ranked rushing offense is averaging 335.7 rushing yards-per-game, with 11 touchdowns on the season. Tennessee does have the nation's fifth-ranked rushing defense, however, that comes following a performance against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles in which the Volunteers allowed only 35 rushing yards.

Florida has the nation's 8th ranked overall offense, but lean heavily on the run, and is ranked 79th in the country in passing offense. Tennessee has the nation's 62nd ranked offense, and rank 96th in passing offense, and 23rd in rushing offense. However, the Gators' defense hasn't shown much up to this point, bolstering the 50th ranked defense in the country, but rank 10th in quarterback sacks.

John Dunn

(Founder/Host/Managing Editor)

With Tennessee's offensive line issues, I expect the Florida defense to be extremely disruptive all day, with defenders in the backfield harassing quarterbacks and running backs alike, making it difficult to get things going offensively. The last thing the Vols need are any added variables that make offensive efficiency an issue. With the 62nd ranked offense in the country, Tennessee has already been struggling to find a rhythm on offense.

However, if the Vols can get things cleaned up, and connect on plays that should be connected on, they have a chance at remaining competitive in this game. If Joe Milton gets the nod at quarterback, he has to connect on these passes that he has been overthrowing. On the other hand, the receivers have to catch the passes that do come their way. I expect the running game to have issues against Florida's defense.

As much as I absolutely hate to say this, I think that Florida is just too much for Tennessee right now.

Prediction: Florida - 38 | Tennessee - 17

Dallas Bowlin

(Junior Staff Writer)

Many Tennessee fans judge the success of the season based on how the Vols perform against the "big three" opponents on the schedule: Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. So, for Josh Heupel to win over some fans who may still be on the fence, and rightfully so, this game goes a long way towards winning them over.

The Vols are currently on a four-game losing streak to Florida, and as they look to prevent that streak from going to five games, they find themselves in somewhat of a quarterback controversy. Hendon Hooker took the majority of snaps last weekend with Milton out, and while he did show some bright spots, he also showed some negatives. He has had some turnover issues, but nothing that really scares you away.

While he also over threw some receivers, he did connect on a couple of deep shots and drew some pass interference calls. Harrison Bailey also had some time in the offense in mop up duty, and while he did have a rushing touchdown, he showed why Milton and Hooker have been the first and second string, due to his lack of mobility.

Let’s be honest, Tennessee could show up with NFL talent and still find a way to lose to Florida it seems. For some reason, they just seem to have Tennessee's number,m no matter who is under center, or is the head coach. This Saturday though, Florida has a clear talent advantage and I look for that to show on the field.

Prediction: Florida - 45 | Tennessee - 24

Zac Strickland

(Junior Staff Writer)

This is where the rubber really meets the road for Josh Heupel. The last coach once said (correctly) that "at Tennessee, you are judged by how you do against Florida, Georgia, and Alabama"… then proceeded to only keep the margin of defeat under 20 once in nine games against those teams.

Can the new Head Vol do better? As usual, Florida has a strong roster and presents Tennessee with its toughest challenge in the month of September. Gone is the air raid of Trask, Toney and Pierce, and in comes an equally formidable ground attack led by veteran RB’s Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis. Emory Jones is expected to start at QB, with possible appearances from Anthony Richardson who has, quite honestly, looked better than Jones so far.

The good news is that the Vols have stopped the run very well to this point, which at least gives them the confidence that they may be able to hold their own in this game. What worries me more is the talented Gators front seven going up against an ailing Tennessee O-line. Alabama struggled to move the ball in the last three quarters against a Florida defense that appears improved from last year’s debacle.

For Tennessee to have any sort of chance at pulling the upset, the offense must hit more chunk plays than they have been doing, while simultaneously keeping turnovers and penalties to a minimum; that goes for either Hooker or Milton. The defense needs to load the box, apply pressure, force Jones to beat them with his arm, and hope he makes mistakes. If he does, Tennessee must turn those mistakes into touchdowns, not field goals.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have confidence in all of this going right for Tennessee, even if the opponent was not Florida. But the Vols tend to save their worst play specifically for the Gators year in and year out. Far better Tennessee teams than this one have consistently found ways to lose against far worse Florida teams than this one. Like most, I’ve reached the point where I have to see it to believe it.

Prediction: Florida - 42 | Tennessee - 27

Darrell Winstead

(Junior Staff Writer)

This isn’t the fierce rivalry that it was back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Vols have only won once in the last 15 meetings versus Florida, so their hasn't been much of a rivalry with the game this one-sided. Tennessee has also lost seven straight games when traveling to the Swamp. The Vols are trying to get back to the glory of yesteryear, while Florida recently gave Alabama a fight to the end.

Florida feels they just missed on an upset, and will be looking to take out some aggression, while the Vols’ goal is to be competitive. Tennessee will have to play mistake free and hit some big plays if they want to have a shot at not being blown out. This is a big test for the Vols who are traveling away from home for the first time this season.

I believe the Vols will be fired up and come out fighting, but not sure it will be enough.

Prediction: Florida - 41 | Tennessee - 20.

William Allen

(Senior Staff Writer)

Steve Spurrier roaming the Florida sidelines is long gone as fourth year head coach Dan Mullen welcomes Tennessee to the Swamp Saturday night. The Vols have lost 15 of the last 16 games, and haven’t won in Gainesville since 2003, when Fulmer was the head coach.

Florida is coming off of a tough loss against top-ranked Alabama, while still ranked number-two nationally in rushing offense. Four players in Mullen's offense have over 100 rushing yards on the season, with two being quarterbacks Jones and Richardson.

“I think they do a great job of spacing people out,” Heupel said on Monday. “The quarterback is a huge part of their run game.” Tennessee defensive coordinator Tim Banks has the number one-ranked rushing defense in the conference entering SEC play, allowing only 1.9 yards per attempt through the first three games.

The Vols are going to have to be disciplined in all three phases of the game if they hope to pull an upset. Expect both quarterbacks, Hendon Hooker and Joe Milton III, to play Saturday night in a tough road game against Florida.

Prediction: Tennessee - 24 | Florida - 38

Joe Davis

(Junior Staff Writer)

Stop me if you've heard this before: the Vols play Gators on Saturday, and it doesn't look promising for the boys from Knoxville.

Both teams head into this game 2-1. The Gators loss comes at the hands of the buzzsaw that is Alabama, but that saw showed some rust last weekend. A 2-point loss to the Tide showed promise for Florida, while it was heartbreaking for them nonetheless.

Although Tennessee has been much improved on offense, it has been against two bottom feeders and a middling Pittsburgh Panther team. Florida has developed a grinding running game behind Malik Davis and dual quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. Richardson missed last week with a hamstring issue against Alabama but could return for this game.

Tennessee has their own two-quarterback issues with Joe Milton dealing with injuries and Hendon Hooker stepping and looking promising. What does all this mean? Probably nothing. At this point in my life the Gators have beaten Tennessee so often, it feels like being a Kentucky fan looking across the border at Tennessee. You know that they know they're gonna find a way to beat you. It's infuriating and yet seemingly inevitable. I don't think it changes this week.

Prediction: Florida - 42 | Tennessee - 20

Dylan Saylor

(Junior Staff Writer)

We can all agree that everyone hates Florida, but obviously they’re the more elite team. Tennessee has to come in Saturday with a "nothing to lose" mentality. Tennessee, will put its 5th-ranked rushing defense against one of the best rushing teams in the nation.

The deciding factor is: how effective will the quarterback play be? If the Volunteers have any shot of winning, they’ll have to play clean and hit some explosive plays. Every Volunteer fan wants to say Tennessee will win this, but unfortunately the Gators are clicking on all cylinders.

Prediction: Florida - 43 | Tennessee - 30


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