On Saturday, the No.6 Florida Gators (7-1) travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-5). The Gators will clinch the SEC East with a win over Tennessee. One team is on a five-game win streak and the other is on a five-game losing streak. Prior to losing five straight, Tennessee was touting one of the longest win streaks in the country.
Florida has won the last three meetings against UT and are 14-1 in the last 15 matchups.
How Florida Can Win
Last weekend, Florida defeated Kentucky at home, 34-10. The Gators started off slow against Kentucky, something they should avoid against Tennessee.
Do not let this game be a season-ruining upset. UF needs to start the game off fast and don’t look back. The Gators have had slow starts all season, opposite of Tennessee who start off fast. But, Florida is prone to popping off later in the game, where the Vols seem to sputter out.
Expect some pressure on Kyle Pitts this weekend. Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt thinks Kyle Pitts is “the best tight-end in the country”. No arguments here. Unlike Kentucky DB Kelvin Joseph, who thought otherwise and overlooked the matchup this last weekend.
Pitts answered that with a three touchdown game against UK. In five and a half games on the season, Pitts has 29 catches and 11 of those have been touchdowns. The Kyle to Kyle connection is real, especially after a three touchdown performance from both of them against UK. Pruitt is smart to prep against Pitts.
It was also nice to see the Gators special teams giving the needed boost for Florida with Toney’s punt return touchdown and a fake punt on the first offensive possession. This is great to see Mullen focusing on all three aspects of the game, because it proves to be worth the attention.
How Tennessee Can Win
The Volunteers had last weekend off so they should be well rested. But their last game resulted in a road loss to Auburn, 17-30.
Pruitt said earlier this week that freshman quarterback, Harrison Bailey, will be getting some play time against Florida. Even though, Jarrett Guarantano is still listed as the starter, two quarterbacks might work in their favor. This forces the Gators to prepare for two different style quarterbacks. The real backfield focus should be on Eric Gray, the stud half-back. He’s averaging about five yards a pop and has had 850 all purpose yards on the season. The last four games, Gray has carried the ball 96 times. He is a beast and the Gators need to make sure their tackling well to stop him.
Another factor for this game could be the weather. The forecast has the weather in the dipping into the 40’s on Saturday afternoon, this could work in the Vols favor. Normally, the Gators face Tennessee much earlier in the season so this isn’t an issue. This will be a true test of an outlying factor for Florida. Yet, head coach Dan Mullen brushes off any issues with the weather.
The Volunteers will also be without their starting linebacker Kivon Bennett, who was dismissed from the team after an arrest. Bennett had 22 tackles on the season and was tied for the most sacks on the team with five. Although, teams have struggled this year applying pressure to Kyle Trask, only being sacked eight times. Missing one of their better pass-rushers isn’t ideal for UT. If Trask can sit in the pocket and comfortably pick apart their defense, it is going to be a long game.
The Gators are a better team, better coached and healthier than Tennessee. With the East at large, Florida should be focused on finishing the job and not giving UT any ideas of an upset. The only thing that should be upset should be the Volunteer fans.