Tennessee vs. Florida: Is Volunteer Defense SEC Ready?

Kevin KingSenior Analyst IISeptember 12, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31:  Mustafa Greene #33 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack rushes against the Tennessee Volunteers at Georgia Dome on August 31, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Only two games into the 2012 season, it is difficult to tell how good the Tennessee Volunteer's defense is. According to the NCAA rankings, they are ranked No. 48 in the nation.

Good luck figuring out what—if anything—the ranking means this early in the season. If it helps, Florida's highly touted defense only ranks No. 43 at this point.

So the question remains, is the Volunteer defense ready for SEC play?

How can you determine how good either defense is now? The current team rankings tell you where they are within the college football world. But where are they within the SEC?

Florida has played—and beaten—an SEC opponent in Texas A&M. Other than the Gators are better than Texas A&M, what does that tell you?

The Aggies are a team with a new coaching staff, new schemes on both sides of the football and a redshirt freshman quarterback. Is the Texas A&M offense any good?

Tennessee defeated NC State two weeks ago. The Wolfpack is a team that has a potential All-American quarterback, good receivers and supposedly, their best offensive line in seven years. Yet a week later, they barely beat Connecticut 10-7.

One last fact to support that we really have no idea how good either of these defenses are yet. The current No. 3 ranked team in college football in total defense is—Connecticut.

Here is what we do know. You can't use the stats from the Georgia State game to draw conclusions about what the Vols may be able to do in a SEC contest.

It was a win and that's great. Also, lots of hard-working players got to see the field and have some fun in a real game, and that's great.  

The NC State game was a good indicator of where the Tennessee defense was in Week 1. In the game, the Vol defenders kept quarterback Mike Glennon under pressure most of the time. As a result, he threw several ill-advised passes.

Tennessee took advantage of that with four interceptions. Overall, Glennon was 27-of-46 passing for 288 yards, one touchdown and the four interceptions. That was far short of an All-American performance for the senior. 

Against the run, the Vols held the Wolfpack to 119 rushing yards on 32 carries—an average of only 3.7 yards per rush.

Two sophomores, Mustafa Greene and Tony Creecy carried the ball 21 of the 32 total times for NC State. Both are big backs, at 6'1" and 210 and 212 pounds.

From a size perspective, they are both very similar to Florida's top back, Mike Gillislee. He is 5'11" and 209 pounds.

It is interesting to note that while the defense was focusing a great deal of effort on Glennon's passing ability, neither of the backs broke a long run. Greene's longest run was 13 yards and Creecy's was 16.

Like some do with the Tennessee rush numbers, take those two longest runs out and NC State's ground game was disappointing. Netting only 90 total yards on 30 carries, or 3.0 per rush.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp wants his team to run the ball and control the clock in Saturday night's game. Still, they will throw the football, too.

The Gator's sophomore quarterback, Jeff Driskel was 13-of-16 passing for 162 yards against Texas A&M last Saturday. Though he didn't have any touchdown passes, he didn't throw any interceptions, either.

Driskel can also pull the ball down and run when in trouble or his number is called. He had a 24-yard carry for a first down to put the game away late against the Aggies.

This Saturday night the SEC wars begin for Tennessee. If the Volunteer defense performs as well against Florida as it did in game one versus the Wolfpack, it may be on the way to something good.

However the game goes, the league is going to get very good look at what Sal Sunseri is capable of as a defensive coordinator. In addition, success-starved Tennessee fans will have a better idea of how good the Vols will be in 2012.