Before we get too far into this, I have to make one thing clear — I’m not expecting the Tennessee Vols to upset the Florida Gators on Saturday in the Swamp.
It would be silly to expect that.
But acting like it isn’t a faint possibility would also be silly. And it would be unfair to the players who suit up in orange and white on Saturdays and give their all on the field.
There’s no doubt that Florida should beat Tennessee on Saturday for their third straight win in a series that’s been predominantly one sided for the last 15 years.
College football, as we all know, can be wild at times. And what’ supposed to happen, isn’t always what happens.
The Vols were supposed to cruise to victory in week one against Georgia State. The thought that Tennessee could lose that game was never entertained by anyone (outside of the Georgia State locker room). Yet, when game day arrived, it was clear that UT hadn’t taken their matchup against the Panthers seriously. As a result, the Vols were upset in front 85,000 disappointed fans.
I don’t know what the tone of the Florida locker room is this week, but it certainly feels like no one in Gainesville is taking the game against UT very serious.
The last question of today’s Mullen press conference was about UT.
It was the only question about UT.
— Will Sammon (@WillSammon) September 16, 2019
If Georgia State can upset Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, then there’s no reason the Vols can’t beat the Gators on the road.
The talent gap between Tennessee and Georgia State was extremely wide. But it didn’t matter. The Panthers found a way to exploit UT’s weaknesses. Georgia State’s game planning was essentially perfect.
There’s a wide talent gap between Florida and Tennessee as well, but the Vols have the same opportunity to exploit weaknesses against the Gators in a 11 AM CT/12 PM ET kickoff.
Tennessee can effectively run the ball against Florida. The Gators’ run defense has been shaky at times this season. If the Vols are successful running the ball, it will open up a lot of other options for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Tennessee will obviously need quarterback Jarrett Guarantano to play the game of his life on Saturday, but winning the game against Florida begins and ends with running the ball.
The Gators’ offensive line is another weakness that UT can try to exploit. Of course, it doesn’t help that Tennessee’s defensive line has also struggled at times, but if Jeremy Pruitt and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley can find unique ways to pressure and contain UF’s young quarterbacks (Kyle Trask and Emory Jones), then it’ll go a long way toward helping the Vols pull off the upset.
Look, Florida is good. And they should beat Tennessee by multiple scores on Saturday. But they aren’t Alabama or Georgia. This is a Gators team that skirted by Miami by four points (a team that’s likely similar to BYU, who beat UT in overtime) and had to engineer a comeback win against Kentucky (a team the Vols beat by 17 last November).
If everything goes wrong for Florida on Saturday, and Tennessee is able to capitalize on mistakes, then the Vols could head back to Knoxville with a shocking W.
On paper it’s a loss for Tennessee, but there’s a reason games aren’t played on paper.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports