Preview time and an extra special one because it’s rivalry week. Rivalries don’t fade. It doesn’t matter if one team takes control of the series and puts together a streak of five or even 10 wins. There’s still an aura surrounding the entire experience. Florida and Tennessee are rivals. They’re conference rivals. They’re divisional rivals. They’re whatever name you want to put on it. It’s a great, albeit nerve-wracking, week all around. This is why we love the game though. It’s rivalry week.
Opponent: Tennessee Volunteers
When: Saturday, September 17, 2011 – 3:30pm
Where: Gainesville, FL
Broadcasting: CBS, Gator Radio Network, GatorZone
Records: Florida: 2-0, Tennessee: 2-0
Point Spread for Wagerin’ Folk: Florida –9.5
Over/Under for Those Mentioned Above: 51
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 30-21
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 40.0, Tennessee: 43.5
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 1.5; Tennessee: 19.5
Our Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 75, OEW: 70
Where We’ll Be Watching: The TBG Corporate Office
10 Things About Tennessee From Wikipedia
The section of the preview where you learn a little something about the school and not the athletics. Well, that’s not entirely true; there are typically some athletics thrown in there. For football-like stuff, scroll ahead.
1. What became the University of Tennessee was established in 1794. That’s older than, well, anything you know pretty much.
2. In that time, it has been called Blount College, East Tennessee College and East Tennessee University before being what it is today.
3. The chancellor, Jimmy Cheek, spent 34 years at Florida as a faculty member and administrator. Cheek received two of his three degrees from future SEC member Texas A&M.
4. Tennessee’s enrollment is somewhere in the ballpark of 27,000 with more than half of that coming from instate.
5. In 2008, PopCrunch rated Tennessee’s student body the 25th most attractive. USF, Miami, Florida, and FSU all ranked higher. Yes, we love our state. The Gators were 4th.
6. The student newspaper is The Daily Beacon. I personally prefer The Alligator, but I might be biased.
7. Lane Kiffin
8. I’ve got nothing and plenty with no. 7, but it’s there and always be. Since you came here for 10 different facts, here’s one you better already know: Peyton Manning never beat the Gators.
9. In 1953, a contest was held to help choose the hound that would become Smokey. An advertisement in a local newspaper stipulated it must be a “Houn’ Dawg.” You can’t spell Citrus without the U and the T, but you can spell hound without the D apparently.
10. Notable alumni: Dixie Carter – there your first and only Designing Women callout; Kurt Vonnegut – a favorite of one Jonathan Moxon; Scott Abbott – one of the inventors of Trivial Pursuit; and obviously a whole bunch of athletes.
When The Gators Have The Ball
Here we go. What we’ve been waiting for and possibly fearing at the same time. It’s a real, live, living, breathing SEC defense. A defense that will be faster and, yes, better than those the Gators have faced thus far this season. It will be a test and one we all want to see.
From what we’ve heard, Charlie Weis only uses the offensive plays he needs to. Fans have been clamoring for John Brantley to take more shots down the field and work the deep passing game into the offense, but it hasn’t been needed and if it isn’t needed, Weis stays away from it. Part of it is not wanting to show your hand and part of it is controlling the game. Weis does what he needs to do to win and after two weeks, we shouldn’t complain. BUT…we do want to see more. Against the Vols, we will (we think). If Tennessee makes a game out of it, Florida will need more offensive firepower and we’ll all get a chance to see exactly what Weis brings to the offense.
Brantley and the offensive line are where it all begins. The quarterback’s composure is perhaps the most important part of the offense, but the line will keep him in the right frame of mind. Keep the pressure off of no. 12 and he can do wonders (again, we think). We saw glimpses against UAB. There were plays that came together exactly as drawn up where the line formed the ideal pocket around Brantley and he was able to stand strong and fire passes to his receivers. It showed us all the potential Brantley has when given the chance to set his feet and use his arm to his advantage. It’s his responsibility to play to his ability, but it’s also the line’s responsibility to allow him to do so.
The running game was two: Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Against UAB – with Demps limited – it became one: Rainey. All cylinders will have to be going against Tennessee as this is the obvious strength of the Florida offense. And – let’s get a drum roll going here – after the last game, we’re much more comfortable about that two becoming three and even four. After fall practice, there was concerned about a lack of consistent play behind the co-starters. Neither got going during the win over FAU, but Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown saw extensive time against UAB and gave us all a little more confidence in the entire running game from starter to third string. Don’t be surprised if rushes are plentiful against the Vols. Weis wants to control the clock and can do just that if he can keep the rushing average up and the chains moving.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: there needs to be a go-to receiver. We’ll go ahead and give the Gators a pass for the first two games because Florida just hasn’t needed one yet, but they will and this could be the game. There’s talent – you’ve been told that a million times by now – but who will step up when Brantley needs someone to rely on in a close game? I could name every receiver on the roster that has ever made a play, but I won’t. Sooner or later one will step up and it could be against Tennessee. This is the first real challenge the Gators face and one that can’t be taken lightly. A receiver will have to make a big play in a clutch situation.
When The Volunteers Have The Ball
Sure it has only been two games and sure the opponents were FAU and UAB, but let’s do the rundown. 1.5 points allowed per game, which just happens to be best in the nation. Opposing quarterbacks have a combined rating of 89.0 and have only passed for 248 yards. The Gators have held opponents to 50.5 rushing yards per game and an average of only 1.9 per carry. Those are impressive numbers regardless of who the opponents were, but you’d think they meant nothing with Tyler Bray coming to town.
Bray is a good passer that had a solid first year in which he showed flashes of becoming a top-notch quarterback. To open the 2011 season against Montana and Cincinnati, Bray had eye-popping numbers: 698 yards, completing 78.5% of his passes, seven touchdowns to zero interceptions, and a rating of 204.2. Those are good numbers. Those are great numbers. From everything we’ve heard, you’d think Bray was a Heisman candidate. He isn’t, yet. That would be similar to ranking Florida no. 1 because they’re undefeated. Bray is good and will be one of the better passers the Gators face this season, but he’s coming into a hostile environment. Bray went 2-2 on the road last season with those wins coming against Memphis and Vanderbilt. He’s not Jonathan Crompton (that’s for sure), but he’s not Peyton Manning either (who as you read above just so happened to never beat Florida). Bray is a young quarterback facing the toughest road test of his career. He’ll have some success, but he’ll also be tested by the defense, the crowd and the aura of The Swamp.
The Gators need pressure and lots of it. Bray will be blitzed, but the front four needs to pressure him without the help of a linebacker or defensive back. That’s where we’ll all look to Sharrif Floyd. Floyd will be playing in his first game after being forced to sit out of the first two for growing up without the privileges some of us take for granted. He’ll be angry and if you’ve ever seen Floyd that’s a very bad thing for anyone in his way. To say he’ll have a fire pushing him on for 60 minutes is an understatement. Hopefully he’s the missing link to the line and can help spring Jaye Howard, Ronald Powell and others into the backfield. If given time, Bray can be very dangerous. The Gators can’t give him that time.
Against Cincinnati, Bray had 405 yards with a long of only 33. That means he was working the intermediate passing game to near perfection. The Gator linebackers know this and will be the most vital part of the defense. Tennessee’s run game hasn’t done much – 127.0 yards per game which is good for 82nd in the country – but if the LBs are too focused on Bray, it can. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins need to be the leaders of the defense and be everywhere on the field. This won’t be a game with a heavy rotation of personnel like the last two. Bostic, Jenkins and Lerentee McCray will play the bulk and need to stay energized and ready play after play.
Sticking with the “Bray will beat Florida” theme since that’s what plenty seem to think will happen, it’s time to move on to the secondary. After two games, you have to be excited about Matt Elam and Marcus Roberson. You also have to be worried…no that’s too strong…nervous…probably not it either…concerned…yeah, concerned…with the other half of the secondary. Talent is abundant, but consistency isn’t yet. But it’s not just about the other two. Because those two will be tested, it’s important that Elam and Roberson bring their A games. They can’t be the ones to let anything by them. They have to shutdown anything coming their way as the others ease into a game where they will be passed on constantly. This game will be a great chance to see exactly where the secondary is as an entire unit.
I miss Brandon James.
One Eyed Willy’s Detailed Analysis Of The Matchup
“I’m nervously optimistic. Is Bray really the second coming of Joe Montana? Let’s hope not!”
Florida is the favorite and should be. This entire game will flow differently than the previous two, but that may be a good thing. The Gators need to be tested. Will Muschamp, Weis and the rest of the coaches need to see exactly where their players are in terms of progress. Tennessee is a good, young team on the rise, but they still have question marks too. This is a level setter for both programs and, of course, it’s rivalry week.