Only a few days after the impact of the Gulf’s second major hurricane, and two weeks since Florida’s week one offensive melt down against Michigan, the Vols head to town. Riding in with a 2-0 record, the Vols knocked off the Rambling Wreck of Georgia tech in overtime the same weekend Florida failed to put up an offensive touchdown. Week two resulted in a 42-7 shellacking of their FCS opponent Indiana State, as most of Florida and the Gators evacuated the state, canceling on FCS opponent Northern Colorado. Of course, both of these opponents were meant to be warm ups leading into what could be the deciding game in the SEC east.
Week 2 Recap
Florida Gators – In Week 1 against Michigan, in the only game the Gators have played so far, several weaknesses were exposed, none of those being the defense. The offense grinded out only 192 yards, with only 11 on the ground. In the opener we saw the Florida Gators’ defense score the only touchdowns of the game, as Michigan QB Wilton Speight threw consecutive Pick sixes after being rattled by the Gators defensive line. They also held the senior to only 11 completions, though still allowing a passing TD. The biggest issues for the boys from Gainesville seemed to be dealing with the Wolverines’ run game, and huge lack of talent on the offensive Line.
Tennessee Volunteers – In the second week, we watched as the Vols, such as so many Power Five schools do, take on a less than impressive FCS cupcake in Indiana State. This matchup went just as you would expect with the Vols hitting on all cylinders to the tune of 42-7. The quarterback play was much like we have become accustomed to from the Vols as Quinten Dormady racked up 194 yards and a pair of TDs. All the while, the running game was tuned up and given a little more experience down the depth chart as four different running backs racked up over 150 yards in total. The O-line needed this warm up, after proving lacking against Georgia Tech. This warm up gives the Vols plenty of reps and rest heading into SEC play.
Keys to the game
Florida’s running game – This is a huge key to the Week 3 match up. At this point the Gator defense has more yards and touchdowns than the running game, which only managed a mere 11 yards in Week 1. If Florida can’t get the ground game going, the Vols will key off on a relatively inexperienced QB in Feleipe Franks. The ground game obviously isn’t a strong suit for the 2017 Gators. The OL play will need a big jump start this week, if senior Mark Thompson can amass just 100 yards and push forward in the third and short situations, Florida may have a chance to pull this one off.
The Vols’ ability to keep composure – This will prove to be more of a challenge than many think. Tennessee did in fact knock off the gators last year, but at home. The Vols are on a six game skid in Gainesville. Tennessee hasn’t walk out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as victors since 2003. It’s obvious that to play at any stadium in the SEC is nerve racking, but the Vols, despite every other component, seem to have the hardest time with the Swamp. If the very experienced Vols can walk into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and eliminate the crowd and harsh environment of The Swamp, it may be the most efficient path to victory for the Vols. The Gators are coming off of a canceled game and playing for a state ravaged by Hurricane Irma. Pride and heart will play a big role in this match up.
Can the Gators defensive line hold against a deep Vols running game – In Week 2 we saw a collection of talented running backs for the Vols. This could prove valuable. As seen in Week 1, the DL may be the best unit, behind only the secondary that Florida has. Returning a strong, experienced unit this year, the Gators will have to contain the running game and hope for some crucial stops and sacks as the game winds down.
Match Up to watch
Florida defensive line vs the Vols offensive line – To this point in the season, the Vols OL has been average, only offset by stellar quarterback and running back play. The Florida DL comes into the game strong and looking for more. This may be the deciding factor in the game, as the Vols OL has given up four sacks thus far and had the pocket collapse more often than not. John Kelly proved to be unstoppable in week one, amassing 128 yards on 19 carries and four TDs. Without good OL play, Tennessee may have to rely on a less then dominate passing game to knock off the Gators.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Florida 10
In my opinion, the Vols get the running game going early. Ultimately, keeping the lackluster offense of Florida on the sideline and leaving the defense worn and down as the 4th quarter starts, the Gators’ defense will at some point come up with points. At best, this match up will be sloppy ending in a less then impressive day for Jim McElwain’s offense. Long story short? The Vols win on a select few big plays as the run game struggles and Florida ends a second straight game under 100 total rushing yards.
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