Florida Football vs. Tennessee Vols: 5 Keys for Gators to Win in Knoxville

Kevin KingSenior Analyst IISeptember 11, 2012

Florida Football vs. Tennessee Vols: 5 Keys for Gators to Win in Knoxville

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    Up next for head coach Will Muschamp's revamped Florida Gators are head coach Derek Dooley's revamped Tennessee Volunteers. Can Florida maintain its seven years of dominance over Tennessee?

    Of course the fans all say yes. However, getting a win in Knoxville this year may be a little trickier than the past few.

    Here, we will look at what makes Tennessee a better team this year, along with what the Gators will need to do to get a win on Saturday.

    Two games into the 2012 season, Tennessee has one of the most respected passing games in college football. Although its 51-13 shellacking of Georgia State is not considered a quality win, the 35-21 win over N.C. State in Week 1 would.

    N.C. State had returned virtually its entire defense. Its defensive backfield was starting the same group for the second year in a row. At game time, N.C. State supposedly had the best defensive backs in the nation.

    Tennessee's junior threesome—quarterback Tyler Bray, along with receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson—shredded the Wolfpack secondary. Bray was 27-of-41 for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

    In 2011, the Vols came into the swamp with Bray and a pair of highly touted receivers. Unfortunately for Justin Hunter, he received a serious knee injury just a few plays into the game and was gone for the season.

    By the time Tennessee regrouped in the game, it was down by 16 points. Florida won 33-23, but all the news wasn't bad for UT.

    Bray was 26-of-48 for 288 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked three times. But this was all after losing his top receiver. Considering that, the recovery was impressive.

    This year, Tennessee has a stronger, more experienced offensive line. And Bray is a year older and his receivers are possibly better than 2011.

    Lastly, Tennessee can run the football this year. The Volunteers rushed for 191 yards on N.C. State and 184 against Georgia State.

    The Tennessee offense is strong. It moved the ball through the air on the Gators last season. There is no reason to think it won't do that provided it doesn't have a devastating injury this time.

    The question mark is with the Vols' retooled defense. They have done well overall in the first two games of 2012. 

    Still, N.C. State, which supposedly had an excellent offense, only scored 10 points in its second game against Connecticut. As a result, some questions exist as Georgia State doesn't have a strong offense either.

    If Florida is going to win its eighth consecutive game over Tennessee, here are five things that must happen.

5. Limit the Penalties

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    In 2011, Florida won the game despite its mistakes. The Gators had 16 penalties for 150 yards. Fortunately, Tennessee was sloppy also with 10 penalties for 94 yards.

    Florida hasn't yet demonstrated the kind of offensive production that can overcome more than 100 yards in penalties against a SEC team. The Gators had 109 yards of penalties against Bowling Green, but that game was also much closer than it should have been. And Tennessee isn't a Bowling Green.

    Imagine if the Gators had been penalized for more than 100 yards in the Texas A&M game? Instead, they had a manageable three penalties for 21 total yards.

    Florida doesn't have to be penalty free to win the ballgame. But they need to be more in the range of what happened in Texas rather than at home versus Bowling Green.

4. Win the Turnover Battle

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    The Gators offense has not shown the explosiveness to overcome several turnovers in a game.

    The schemes employed by Will Muschamp and his staff are the basics of good football: Play great defense and special teams, run the football downhill, and avoid turnovers and mistakes.

    In truth, it's good, fundamental football. Something that may have gone out of style over the past few years—but thanks to Alabama, LSU and now, Florida—is coming back.

    Whether in style or not, these things have always been a formula for winning.

    Based on the make up of the Florida team, it needs to tie or better the turnover battle with Tennessee. If the Gators get on the wrong side by two or more turnovers, they likely will lose the game.

3. Mix It Up on Defense

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    Against an experienced offense with a great quarterback, the defense can't be predictable.

    Blitz constantly and the Vols will be throwing screens, three-step timing routes and draws. Playing zone with extra help over the top and they will pick you apart a little at a time.

    Florida will try to generate pressure with its excellent defensive line. But that didn't work well last year and since the offensive line for the Vols is better, it likely won't this year.

    So they must mix it up, meaning blitzing from different directions and personnel. Try stunts, zone blitzing and just keep throwing different things out to keep the offense off balance.

    The Gators need is to create pressure any way they can. Pressure equals opportunities for turnovers.

    If pressure isn't possible, then solid zone defense allows for the smallest gains possible.

    Make Tennessee go 15 plays to get a score. Somewhere along the line, it may jump or cost itself.

    The answer that best suits Muschamp's style is the Gators figuring a way to create pressure all the time. It would be high risk and high reward.

    Bray caught N.C. State trying that and burned it with two long touchdown passes.

2. Shorten the Game

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    At 5'11" and 209 pounds, Mike Gillislee is a load to tackle. He is also the type of running back who doesn't think the ball is heavy. In other words, he will carry it 35 or 40 times if he can.

    That likely won't be necessary since the Gators have a full stable of running backs who want to help out. Last week against Texas A&M, eight players ran the football for Florida. In addition, Jeff Driskel can run the football extremely well.

    So far this season, Driskel has run designed plays very rarely. This game would be a good time to allow him an additional eight to 10 carries as well. 

    What Florida will try to do is keep moving the chains and methodically work their way down the field for scores. If done properly, this keeps Tennessee's thoroughbred offensive players sitting on their bench for long stretches of time.

    If it works, this strategy will  shorten the game—thus allowing the Vols less scoring opportunities—and it will also make it difficult for the Tennessee offense to stay in sync during the game.

    On average each offense gets four to five possessions per half. If the Gators can grind out first downs on their way to scores, they could eliminate one or two possessions per half for UT. Less possession equals fewer scores normally.

1. Conservative, Mistake Free, Quarterback Play

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    Florida needs to play from ahead or very close behind throughout the game. If the Gators are able to play with the lead, it creates the perfect situation.

    They can use conservative play calls with their sophomore quarterback. This will allow Driskel to play at a comfortable pace and not press.

    Even though he did an excellent job in the Gators' come-from-behind effort against Texas A&M last week, there is no need to tempt fate. Driskel is still only a sophomore and this is still only his second start.

    A newer quarterback, with limited playing experience, can lose confidence quickly. Worse yet, he can start to press and try to do something he normally wouldn't do.

    Florida doesn't want to put its quarterback in a bad situation, where he is trying to bring his team back from a mess he caused.  

    The best case scenario is this is a close, low-scoring game—much like the Texas A&M game—where Tennessee is the one on the scramble.

    If the Gators can do these things, they will likely beat the Volunteers in Knoxville this Saturday.