Florida vs. Tennessee: Which Team Is Closer to Returning to Championship Form?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterSeptember 11, 2012

Tennessee QB Tyler Bray
Tennessee QB Tyler BrayJim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

For the first time since 1995, the Florida vs. Tennessee game won't be featured as the national SEC game of the week on CBS. 

That seemed like the right move, considering Alabama at Arkansas seemed like the bigger game when television selections for Week 3 were made during the summer.

Now? Well, not so much.

When the Florida Gators travel to Knoxville on Saturday night to take on the Vols, it not only will be a huge game for both teams, but will also be the most important game of Saturday's SEC slate.

It's been a minute or two since that was the case.

So which team is closer to returning to SEC championship form?

Judging from the first two games of the season, it's the Tennessee Volunteers.


It's simple; the Volunteers have already solved most of their most pressing problems.

The Vols haven't missed a beat without former wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, as junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson has already lived up to the hype that followed him to Knoxville. 

They're third in the SEC in rushing offense with an average of 187.5 yards per game, after having finished last in the SEC last season with 90.08 yards per game—34 yards per game behind 11th place Kentucky.

Marlin Lane emerged as a weapon at running back in the second half of the season opener vs. N.C. State, and Rajion Neal hasn't been bad.

Defensively, the Vols secondary has struggled at times. But new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri recognized that early in the season and began to crank up the head. The resulting pressure has helped the Vols force six turnovers in their first two games.

Defenses don't have to be great to be successful; they just have to be opportunistic. 

Nothing against Florida. The Gators proved a lot with their win on the road at Texas A&M last week—particularly the ability to make the proper defensive adjustments.

While all of the focus was on the quarterback battle this summer, the Gators did solve their biggest offseason question with the emergence of running back Mike Gillislee as a legitimate every-down SEC running back.

But it's the quarterback issue that still remains out there. Jeff Driskel has been good (and really hasn't been asked to be great), but he still takes too many sacks and is apprehensive to pull the trigger at times. 

Those are issues that can be solved with experience, so it shouldn't be alarming. But I'll need to see it before I believe it.

Tennessee had farther to climb than Florida did, but judging from the first two games of the season, it's solved its most pressing issues and are on the brink of getting back into the division title contention.