Two weeks into the 2012 college football season, the excitement level is as high as it has been in a long time.
The Vols are 2-0, ranked for the first time since 2008 and set to host College Gameday (first time since 2004) and the 18th-ranked Florida Gators.
CBS elected not to televise the game for the first time since 1995 (lots of firsts here) in favor of Alabama against Arkansas.
The Gators have won seven straight in the series and always seem to bring out the worst in the Vols. However, as it stands right now, Tennessee is a slight favorite.
It should be a fun week in Knoxville leading up to Saturday’s game, but whether the party continues into Sunday remains to be seen.
Who: Florida at Tennessee
When: Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Where: Knoxville, Tenn.
Stadium: Neyland Stadium, (102,455)
Radio: Vol Network
QB: Tyler Bray, Justin Worley
RB: Raijon Neal, Devrin Young or Marlin Lane
FB: Ben Bartholomew, Justin King
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Rogers
WR: Justin Hunter, Cody Blanc
TE: Mychal Rivera, Ben Bartholomew
LT: Antonio Richardson, Alan Posey
LG: Dallas Thomas, Marcus Jackson
C: James Stone, Mack Crowder
RG: Zach Fulton, Alex Bullard
RT: Ja'Wuan James, Kyler Kerbyson
DE: Darrington Sentimore, Corey Miller
NG: Daniel McCullers, Daniel Hood
DE: Maurice Couch, Marlon Walls
Jack: Jacques Smith, Jordan Williams
SLB: Curt Maggitt, Willie Bohannon
MLB: A.J. Johnson, Channing Fugate
WLB: Herman Lathers, Dontavis Sapp
LCB: Marsalis Teague, Justin Coleman
FS: Brian Randolph, Rod Wilks
SS: Byron Moore, Brent Brewer
RCB: Prentiss Waggner, Eric Gordon
K: Derrick Brodus, Michael Palardy
P: Matt Darr or Michael Palardy
KR: Devrin Young, Cordarrelle Patterson
PR: Devrin Young, Justin Hunter
QB: Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett
RB: Mike Gillislee, Mack Brown
FB: Hunter Joyer, Trey Burton
X: Frankie Hammond Jr., Latroy Pittman, Andre Debose
Z: Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton
F: Trey Burton, Omarius Hines
TE: Jordan Reed, Clay Burton
LT: Xavier Nixon, Kyle Koehne
LG: James Wilson, Ian Silberman
C: Jonotthan Harrison, Sam Robey
RG: Jon Halapio, Jessamen Dunker
RT: Chaz Green, Trip Thurman
DE: Dominique Easley, Earl Okine
NG: Omar Hunter, Leon Orr
DT: Sharrif Floyd, Damien Jacobs
Buck: Lerentee McCray, Dante Fowler, Jr.
SLB: Neiron Ball or Darrin Kitchens
MLB: Jonathan Bostic, Michael Taylor
WLB: Antonio Morrison, Darrin Kitchens
LCB: Jaylen Watkins or Loucheiz Purifoy
FS: Josh Evans, Jabari Gorman
SS: Matt Elam, Valdez Showers
RCB: Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy
K: Caleb Sturgis, Brad Phillips
P: Kyle Christy, Todd Fennell
KR: Andre Debose, Solomon Patton
PR: Marcus Roberson, Andre Debose
After playing a decent North Carolina State team to open the season, Tennessee gave itself a virtual “week off” with a home game against Georgia State.
However, the Vols came out of the gates slow and led only 14-6 in the second quarter.
Tyler Bray and the Vols turned it on from there though with two touchdown-scoring drives that took a combined 2:01. With the scores, the Vols led 28-6 at the half, and the rout was on from there.
Bray finished an almost-flawless day 18-of-20 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Justin Hunter had an impressive showing as well, catching eight passes for 146 yards and three scores.
While Tennessee was entertaining Georgia State, the Gators were in College Station helping Texas A&M open up SEC play.
Florida looked completely dominated during the first half but managed to trail by just seven at halftime.
Credit belongs to Will Muschamp and the Gators for whatever happened in the locker room at halftime. Florida looked like a completely different team over the final 30 minutes and ended up with an impressive 20-17 victory in a hostile environment.
Mike Gillislee was once again the focal point of the offense, but Jeff Driskel did a very nice job managing the game even though he was being battered by the Texas A&M defense, which sacked him eight times.
For years, the Florida-Tennessee showdown had major implications on the SEC East race. The winner put itself in prime position to represent the East in Atlanta.
However, that has not been the case over the last few years. With the Vols' recent struggles, the game has lost meaning, thus the reason CBS chose to televise a different game this weekend.
This year is a different story.
While the two teams certainly aren’t the only two competing for the SEC East crown, the winner of this one will be in position to challenge Georgia and South Carolina for the top spot.
The loser puts itself behind the eight-ball and has a long uphill climb ahead of them if they want to get back into contention.
In addition, Tennessee is looking for some sort of marquee win to hang its hat on to prove that it is on its way back. The Vols still have not defeated a ranked team during the Derek Dooley era.
A win Saturday would make the kind of statement the Vols are trying to send.
Tennessee goes as its offense goes. And the one man that makes the offense run is Tyler Bray.
The Vols defense is going to give up points. It will be up to the offense to keep the pressure on the Gators by scoring points of its own.
Florida always seems to bring out the worst in the Vols. Tennessee has always found a way to make weird turnovers and costly mistakes at the worst times in the matchup.
Bray is the captain of the offense and in total control. So it will be up to him to keep the ship pointed in the right direction.
Through the Gators’ first two games, running back Mike Gillislee has been their best player.
Against Bowling Green, Gillislee rushed for nearly 150 yards and scored two touchdowns, single-handedly leading the Gators to the victory.
On Saturday, the running back scored the only two Florida touchdowns in the win over Texas A&M.
Gillislee is a little banged up heading into the week, but he seems to be fine for Saturday.
The winner of the rushing game has generally won this matchup, and the Gators are in good hands if that is the case this weekend.
It takes care of the football.
As previously mentioned, the Vols have committed way too many costly turnovers in this matchup in previous years.
They have the offensive talent to put points on the board, but that talent is quickly nullified if they can’t hold onto the football.
If the Vols can eliminate the costly mistakes, they are the better team in this game, and with the home crowd behind them, they should win the game.
It can control the clock.
With Mike Gillislee and company, the Gators have the ability to control the time of possession stat and keep the Tennessee offense off the field.
It doesn’t matter how quick the Vols are capable of striking if they don’t have the ball.
The Gators will be looking to eliminate the number of chances Tyler Bray gets, and running the football successfully will make that possible.
Tennessee has been searching for a signature win to hang its hat on since Derek Dooley took over. They came close two years ago at LSU, but Vols fans know all to well how that turned out.
The Vols are the better team in this game, but history says the Gators will find a way to win.
However, Tennessee is playing with a ton of confidence, and Neyland Stadium will be rocking Saturday night.
The game will be close throughout, but Bray and company will come up with a late score, and the Tennessee defense will make a stop when it counts.